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I think I know why you can't hire engineers right now (cushychicken.github.io)
780 points by cushychicken 4 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 890 comments

There comes a point where the money just isn't a motivating factor anymore, and companies are struggling to figure out how to work in that environment. This bit from the author hits the nail on the head:

>Is an extra $10k per year worth learning a new org, a new skillset, a new set of expectations, a new set of coworkers, and a new boss?

For many engineers, the answer is: “No.”

Yes I could quit and get a ~20k raise by shopping my resume around, but I don't need the money. I have enough for a down payment on a house, I meet my expenses for the month with 1/2 of one paycheck, I can buy a new car on a credit card if I wanted to. More money would be _nice_, and I imagine I'd be singing a slightly different song if I had kids, but it's much less important than knowing the work that I do has meaning and an immediate impact on the world, and about as important as working with new/interesting technology. I imagine there are a lot of early career (26-30 year old) software engineers who are in a similar boat. If money was a motivator I'd be serially founding companies and striving to be The Next Big Thing. I'm just not. I'm happy being hire number 13, or 99, and working with people I like doing work I find value in.

Edited for spelling

I do not disagree with your take, but I think you may only be speaking for a subset of engineers that are already fairly well compensated. The article likewise seems to discard the importance of money in favor of three other more immaterial factors, but I do not think this is representative of the situation of the global job market right now. I also think such a perspective can not fully explain the difficulties that many companies are having with regards to hiring engineers at the moment.

If you look outside of coastal cities, there are plenty of job offers for engineering jobs that pay less than 6 figures. Over in Europe and East Asia, $50 to $60k salaries are the norm. And people job hop frequently for a few extra $k because that corresponds to a significant increase in quality of life for them. The difference between a 2 br and 3 or 4 br apartment, between another kid or not, etc...

People will absolutely leave your company if they think they can get paid more elsewhere. People will absolutely pass over your job offer if they think they can get more elsewhere.

You also see the reverse phenomenon which is that you'll find plenty of engineers doing soul-wrenching, boring jobs in toxic environment who still say because they are very generously compensated (hello FAANG).

> Over in Europe and East Asia, $50 to $60k salaries are the norm

Yes, and we have plenty of nice stuff that goes along with it

Healthcare, 30 paid holidays, unions, paid overtime, weekends and calls off work come extra (it is 40h week period, want more pay for it), retirement, flex time, ...

Like the OP, my expenses are more than covered, getting more isn't worth the hassle to change.

Ah, and in some countries having too many companies on the CV isn't well seen, it appears the candidate isn't able to fit-in anywhere.

Despite all of that, I think engineers are underpaid in Europe (and presumably East Asia).

I just left a job at a major bank where all the non-engineer roles got paid, or at least could be paid more than I got. There were 5 pay scales for engineers, the top 2 of which weren't even being used. I got there from a freelance contract, and I had to take a serious pay cut to continue working on the project. It was a really cool project, which I wrote the initial prototype for, and guided a growing team in its development, and I accepted the pay cut because I loved the project so much, but a year later I left to go back to freelancing. I think that's the only way to get paid your worth here. Meanwhile the company is wondering why they can't retain senior engineers. If I wanted to be paid more, I'd have to take on more organisational duties outside my team, and I just wasn't interested in that, so I left. For an interesting freelance project that pays even more than that bank paid me when I freelanced for them.

It doesn't have to be 6 figures, but I think senior software engineers absolutely should be getting manager-level salaries, without having to dilute their technical focus by taking on other responsibilities.

In banks the technical people are, in my experience, always second class citizens. They are expected to shut up and do what the business people tell them to do. They are not really responsible for anything or making decisions and are paid accordingly. The best paid technical people in banks are not people who are working on some cutting edge technology developing new stuff, but people who happen to be the only ones who know how to maintain some piece of god awful critical legacy infrastructure. This is also the reason why the banking technology develops so slowly and why the infrastructure in banks suck so much.

Technical people are responsible for building and maintaining all the systems that handle the stuff that the business want done. And I also told business people what they should be doing. Seeing banks as a non-tech industry is a mistake in my opinion, and many banks do seem to agree that they should be a tech company. Many are active in tech communities, organise tech related events, and really seem to care about tech. And yet, tech salaries seem to be lagging.

Worked in several banks. "We are not bank, we are tech company with bank department" - was mentioned occasionally in each of them. What was also common - red tape, outdated software (tools, libraries, frameworks), restricted access to workstation, processes focused around pushing approvals around (instead of automation). That's why my response to "we are not a bank" sentiment above is "it's a bank, alright".

Saying that they are a tech company is popular amongst the big banks these days. Technically that's true - they (and most businesses these days) are driven by tech and would fall apart without it. But tech is most definitely a cost center entity at such firms and tech employees likewise treated as second class citizen. As my old engineering manager at a bank told us - "if a trader tells you to jump and dance like a monkey, you jump and dance like a monkey".

I've heard Goldman Sachs has attempted to make some strides in running their Marcus product more like a Silicon Valley tech company (within reason). But I've also heard that ultimately that it too fell prey to the burden of the old conservative bank culture. A friend who worked there until recently told me not to fall for the glitzy marketing, and that it was just all more of the same. Would be interested what someone who is actually working there now has to say, esp. someone that has worked in both SV tech companies and Goldman to compare.

Banks definitely should be tech companies, and understand and embrace the important of tech for their business. But you're absolutely right; the banks where I worked definitely tried to be technologically progressive (sometimes even a bit too much in my opinion[0]), but it was undeniable that much of the company was slow and bureaucratic, and despite all the "empowering developers", we often got stupid decisions handed down to deal with. Often they were aware of the stupidity, but changing something was still a very slow process.

At one bank, I was in a team that straddled the line between the international and domestic sections of the bank, which used to be more independent from each other, but we had to deal with both. Getting a simple firewall opened up between two systems on either side took 6 months.

[0] One bank that arguably took the tech company most seriously, wanted to be a bit too much on the cutting edge in my opinion. They were very active in the Angular community, which was absolutely great, but they also wanted to do CICD, which just didn't fit with all the security checks necessary at a bank. Parts were moving very fast, and parts were moving very slowly.

At that same bank, we also had a very clear mandate that we could say no to business. At some point, after we felt we put too much in production in rapid succession with insufficient testing, we had to block a next thing that a business guy really wanted to see in production. Really pissed him off, and he threw a tantrum I hadn't seen before or since at any workplace, but we insisted and our manager backed us up, so that was definitely good.

I personally can't speak to SV tech company. However I worked in msft and difference is staggering, it's two completely different universes.

>> ([..] most businesses these days) are driven by tech and would fall apart without it

Yup. It's like, is Coca-cola a "tech company with soda department"? Pretty sure they have programmers and some non-trivial IT infra as well.

Having worked in a fintech D2C app, the distinction I drew was that there were 2 'products' - the financial product i.e getting 4% return on your money - the digital product i.e the app

The 1st was the real product, the 2nd the nice-to-have

Obviously core tech in banking is infinitely more critical than an app but the point is the same; the tech in banks, unless its 'quant', HFT or ML is not the money maker and therefore won't be paid as such

The app that people use to access their money is absolutely core tech. If the payment infrastructure goes down (or worse: is buggy), that's a massive problem. Banks that don't consider this core aren't keeping up.

The thing is, while reliability of payment infrastructure matters, the UX and convenience of it does not as much - "everyday services" are not the core business of the banks (for ordinary individuals, mortgages and consumer loans is, for high net value, investments), they are pretty much a loss-leader that needs to exist but it's neither a major revenue maker nor a determining factor for customers - e.g. they will shop around for the mortagage, and if they get a good deal, they'll switch to another bank without even looking at how convenient their apps are.

Yes, there are some consumers for whom those everyday services are everything and they'll go to some 'app only' bank that does that well and without excessive fees. From the point of a traditional bank, that's not a problem, good riddance - if they don't use other products and aren't willing to pay excessive fees for everyday things, there's no money in having them as customers, and when they'll want to do something profitable (e.g. take a mortgage) they'll come back from that app-only bank as that product (the financial product, not the tech product) is actually competitive.

Note: this is from an EU viewpoint. USA may have a bit different perspective as the regulations there allow quite a lot revenue streams (e.g. bounced check fees) from people with no money and no other products, in EU much of exploitative payment practices have become restricted, so these customers simply become unprofitable and not really desired, the main value of "having them" is that this might help you sell profitable products to them later when they have more money and/or more plans for credit.

Many of our customers didn’t even use the app. They could phone up and get someone to do every action for them. If your product can operate without the app then the app is secondary

Financial transactions by phone? To me, that sounds inefficient, expensive, error prone and insecure. All banks I know provide an app and a website to their users. Having to talk to a person to handle your money is something from the 1980s.

Of course for very specific high-value transactions, it may be useful to talk to someone, especially when it's something that also involves advice, but most people only do that kind of thing two times in their life: for mortgage and pension.

Modern banking does not function without the app (be it web or mobile).

Lol, if you say so!

He’s right. If customers are not able to do this themselves through an app, the required headcount would boom and no retail bank would be profitable.

You might want to look at the profitability of the 'app only' banks vs the traditional ones

What would I learn?

What kind of customers are you talking about, investors or normal people?

True, In a bank tech is a cost center, that is why they are treated as second class citizens even though tech is actually enabling the business

Agree. They didn't get the memo yet that tech rules the world. These companies are very traditional. Top-heavy, where finance, purchasing and sales dominate the company. That's where all the hot shots are and the big salaries.

Meanwhile, IT is an internal "cost centre", a necessary evil, a bunch of resources preferably outsourced.

Slightly off-topic questions, because I've been thinking about freelancing lately:

- Where/how do you (as a freelancer) find your clients? (Do you focus on clients from the financial industry?)

- Where are those clients from (location-wise)?

- Do you work remotely? If yes, does your timezone need to match your client's timezone? Put differently: How flexible are you when it comes to working hours?

It's a bit embarrassing perhaps, but I don't actually look much for clients. Recruitment agencies find me on LinkedIn and contact me about projects they're trying to fill. Doing my own acquisition would be a lot of extra work, and I'm not convinced I could do it better than these recruiters, so I just sit here and let them contact me.

My projects tend to be 1-2 years where I'm part of a team working on the same thing. A single client at a time.

My clients are mostly from Amsterdam, where I live. I want to be able to bike to work. Well, normally; these days I work from home, but we're in the same timezone and I work normal working hours.

Thanks so much for the insights!

In Toronto, Canada, freelancing or contracting is a way to pay senior engineers more than the company's standard fixed pay bands. The FTE pay brackets aren't great and we have a great public health care system so there's not much advantage to benefits packages.

Contractors are paid from the project budget (capex) and often don't have to go through the central HR department which allows projects to pay what they need to in order to attract the right people. We typically work alongside FTEs but we get "rolled off" projects as they ramp down at the end whereas the FTEs either stay on or get reassigned within the company.

For me, contracts typically last 1-3 years.

- I find my clients through my network of people I've worked with in the past

- My clients are usually based in Toronto like me

- I've been 100% remote since March 2020.

With respect to remote, my current client is trying to get people back to the office in a hybrid model. If they force it then I'll probably look elsewhere.

We are talking about 50-60k before taxes here though (e.g. healthcare isn't included yet) - there really is not that much left in the end, especially compared to the US where quite some companies will match our European amenities (talking about software engineering jobs).

Also all inclusive contracts are quite common or some legal workarounds with payed overtime after x amount of hours (where x amount would be working 2 times as much per week), never heard of unions for this sector in DACH either.

Frankly getting a 10k salary bump in Europe is still pretty solid - for 20k I would bet most engineers around here would make a switch. (note that you tax down ~50% above the 60k you earn from now on).

> Ah, and in some countries having too many companies on the CV isn't well seen, it appears the candidate isn't able to fit-in anywhere.

True, but if someone switched jobs every year it feels like a red flag to me anywhere where the cost of hiring actually matters I would say.

> specially compared to the US where quite some companies will match our European amenities (talking about software engineering jobs).

Debatable. In most European countries, if you lose your job you still have health cover. If you lose your job in the US you do not keep the company benefit health insurance (except as part of a severance package for a limited time). For H1-B visa holders, they must leave the country (this is relevant for anyone based in Europe who is trying to determine whether to stay in Europe or use a visa programme to relocate to the US).

But it isn't hard to find a job, and there are other options for health care while you are looking.

I agree that it is stupid to tie health insurance to your job, but it isn't the big deal you make it out to be, so long as you have savings

I'm not an expert in american insurance policies (not even a novice, tbh) but if you have an ongoing condition and then lose insurance, and then get new insurance with your easy-to-get new job then would the ongoing condition be considered a pre-existing condition and hence fall into question regarding cover?

Not since 2009

so long as you have savings

That phrase is key. Most Americans don’t have savings. Even among the professional class, savings are often nowhere near high enough to pay OOP for insurance at market rate.

As a 55 yr old with 3 dependents, the insurance is $25,000 per year.

That’s quite a hill to climb before I see a penny of income into my pocket.

Depends where in Europe. In Germany, if you lose your job you still have to pay for health insurance, at least the first three months until your unemployment kicks in (assuming you're eligible for it, like in most cases) and I don't know if unemployment covers your health insurance.

If you are married and you and your spouse were on the same statutory health insurance, then you're covered by your spouse. Which can be the case in the US depending on your spouse's coverage.

This is true, but not quite the full truth. You will fall on the minimum tariff, and both unemployment and social security cover your health insurance. IIRC, they will cover it retroactively for those 3 months, even if you quit. However that last line is from a conversation in a bar.

And yes, if you earn below 450€ a month, you're generally covered by your spouse or family's health insurance with many little rules and exceptions. None of those exceptions are deal breakers though.

This page (https://allaboutberlin.com/guides/german-health-insurance) explains more, and has a very accurate calculator that takes those edge cases into account.

Once you are unemployed you do have to pay for your health insurance, but it's heavily subsidized, costing (as a 50 year old) around 200 a month. Compare that to 1200 per month in the USA.

It's a huge difference.

It's a huge difference when you compare absolute numbers for sure. But also there is a huge difference in taxes. You could argue 1200 is not so bad when you pay 25% taxes instead of 40% for example.

You don't pay income taxes when unemployed.

That's not what I meant. When you are employed in tech and pay say 25% taxes, saving 1200 for a bad day (when you are unemployed and have to pay insurance yourself) is not so bad compared to when you pay 40 taxes.

You've gone full circle then. Someone was pointing out that salaries are lower in Europe, someone else replied that on the other hand costs are lower (for example health insurance). To which you reply that it's fine because salary are lower.

Get ACA, should be a lot lower than $1200/month if AGI isn't really high (assuming unemployed), now if you want CORBA that could be a different story.

Where did you get $1200/month in the US? At least where I live, it is $400/month.

it's impossible (i.e. illegal) in Germany to be uninsured. you may have to pay yourself depending on the situation (I had to do it once between jobs), but the amount you have to pay is not crazy, and there are no people who have no health insurance because they can't afford it. For example, if you are eligible for ALG II (aka Hartz IV, i.e. long-term unemployment benefits), your health insurance is automatically paid for.

If you're not eligible for ALG II (so I guess your first year of unemployment), do you have to pay for insurance from your unemployment benefits?

What's stopping you from choosing and paying for your own health insurance in the US?

A salary is like RAM, you only notice if it's too little. Once you reach this comfort level where you can cover your expenses and feed your lifestyle without having to think too much about it, getting some extra will make far less impact than the number might suggest. Not having enough money is like drowning and you'd do anything for a breath of air. Having just enough to live comfortably is like getting to the edge of the beach. Moving further up the beach a bit is nice but you certainly won't be willing to break your back to get there.

It's not only diminishing returns at work but simply crossing that comfort threshold severely drops the incentives from "survival mode" to "eh... yeah... maybe".

And sure, if you like living just above your means you'll always be in "survival mode". Always the better car, the better house, the better vacation, they need to be financed and every little bit will count. I think that's not where most people are.

What you do get (speaking here from my experience in Belgium) is that the top of the wage scale is invisible because past a certain tier everyone works as a consultant to avoid the high taxes. It is not unusual in senior tech roles to charge 1K+ per day or 20K+ per month, and pay a lower effective tax rate on that income, while having long term engagements with the same companies so that little time is lost to churn.

> everyone works as a consultant to avoid the high taxes

You mean, to avoid the social security fees (health/pension/unemployment/…)? After all, as a consultant (whether incorporated or not) you still need to pay taxes and the rates are pretty similar to tax rates for employees.

The people that I know that are self-employed and earning high incomes generally are incorporated and have an accountant to set up tax avoidance strategies to have a lower effective tax rate. Effective tax rates seem to follow a gauss curve, low at the bottom, low at the top, highest for the middle earners.

That'll vary by country and won't be efficient everywhere in Europe. Certainly in Germany freelancers pay the same taxes as regular employees, and setting up a company means more taxes, not less.

There is literally an IT workers union in Austria (when we lived there every job came with a minimum pay based on Kollektivvertrag for the role - you could get more than the minimum of course).

Dunno where you live but in Belgium:

- That salary certainly does seem realistic, even though I'm on the higher end and have a base salary above that;

- I also get the same amount of paid holidays, might be even a couple more;

- we have great hospitality insurance, mutuality (general health care) has to be paid by ourselves however, even though that's cheap;

- they do help me save for pension in the form of a contribution, but it certainly isn't enough to retire of, I see it more like a nice base, but will definitely need money on top of that to actually keep living a good live (at least if I want to stay in Belgium);

- they are flexible in timing for sure, that is something I'm grateful for, as long as I get the work done it's cool;

- they do not expect work in the weekends or after office hours (if you do flexible hours it's of course up to you to do the promised hours at some point or another of course);

However, never ever:

- have I get overtime paid, in any of the companies I worked for in Belgium or the UK;

- have I get the chance to be in some kind of union that's standardised within the companies I work for, haven't even heard ever of a union for software developers;

Further more I'm always been told that despite the fact that they earn their 200k salaries they on top of that get also nice bonuses, options on stocks, 4k pension saving and premium health insurance covered. Or is that too much rainbows and unicorns I heard of?

Not rainbows -- FAANG are out-bidding startups at every level.

If you have a modicum of talent and a flair for interviews, they will gladly buy your soul for $250k/year + bennies from heaven.

Hmm a modicum of talent? It's pretty hard to get in. Doesn't necessarily take talent but it sure helps. Either that or the willingness and ability to grind out so many interviews you actually become good at it. Whatever the case not everyone is capable or event want to go through with it. And its not as if FAANG are a good representation of the industry, maybe 5% of devs work there?

I see, so while not rainbows it does come with the fact that you're expected to be a slave on location for 24/7? So if I understand it correctly it is only rainbows if you wish to combine that with a family life and without having to move to us?

> while not rainbows it does come with the fact that you're expected to be a slave on location for 24/7?

Not at all. You're expected to be productive to a certain standard (and even that is sometimes iffy), not to be 24/7 available.

That's just the first year out of school pay. It goes up to mid six figures quickly once you get a promotion or two.

Sorry for the flood, just a remark. As a devops engineer from Eastern Europe (with "senior" formal title) in a large international consultancy, these numbers sound like they are from another planet to me. $250k+/year to me sounds indistinguishable from $200000000000000000000/year.

FAANG employees, particularly on the West Coast, are an anomaly, even within the US. People also often include stock grants in listed comp, so be sure your comparing apples to apples.

DC/Mid-Atlantic salaries at an established (non-FAANG) company are more like $85-$100k for a recent grad, $130-$170 for senior developer positions. Most of those jobs are in the suburbs, where a nice house is in the $500-$1million range.

While there is cost of living differences per region in compensation too, I imagine the typical senior+ software engineer in the US is lucky to retire after decades of work having broken $200k-250k total compensation. Meanwhile junior FAANG engineers are probably making that much.

I'd say this applies to HCOL areas too like NYC or even the SFBA. If you're working for a cludgy old Fortune 500 tech-is-a-cost-center enterprise company (where the majority of SWEs are working), you're probably not making more than $200k-250k at best as a senior SWE with many, many years of experience unless you have some niche specialty.

To put a point on this, I saw an opening for a Chief Data Engineer (or something like that) at Ford. I asked my friend, a long tenured mechanical engineer there with friends on the software side, what that would pay...he said 200k! I bet it's closer to 300, but still, it's no wonder everyone hates their car software.

Important to note that "senior dev" here means title, not actual seniority, e.g. ~5 yrs experience gets you in that range even at an early-stage startup in the Midwest.

Correct. At my employer, Senior Developer is the 3rd (of 6) title in the developer hierarchy. Also the first where promotion upwards isn't mostly automatic. Though the comp ranges for Senior and up have a lot of overlap between levels - to earn beyond 150ish, you'll have to be really good, regardless of title.

A Senior Dev would be expected to operate mostly independently on day-to-day tasks, capable of contributing back to their immediate team (mentoring, working with product manager, etc), work directly with customers and leadership as needed, and be recognized as somebody with answers to problems within their immediate area.

> Also the first where promotion upwards isn't mostly automatic

In such cases is it still considered the terminal title, the one you either earn or are pushed out for not earning, but are not required to go beyond?

Pretty much. We don't have codified up-or-out rules. I don't see many truly terminal Senior Devs, but have seen people "hang out" in that role for many years. Same thing for Lead Dev, which is one title more senior.

Assoc to Senior or Lead - being successful at normal tasks over time gets you there without much active career management.

Senior to Principal - you'll have to seek out interesting work, prove capable of working across product/business or technical boundaries, and start interacting with leaders outside you team.

Senior Principal - all of above, plus interacting regularly with VP, leaders in Product Management group, capable of high level design/analysis, trusted by peers and leaders across your organization. High level of ability mentoring and leading.

Cool, that lines up with my recent experience at a "mid tech", a Fintech that will IPO this year or next. I interviewed for Staff, they downleveled me to Lead, I quit in 6 months. There were people ahead of me with half my experience...but those folks had basically never worked anywhere else.

Funny to compare that with my previous experience at an IIOT startup, where I was employee ~#30 and the third or fourth engineer doing cloud stuff. Started at Staff, left at Senior Staff after two years but would have been Principal if I stayed another 2-3 months. The gap is big!

You haven't. That's the sad reality for devs living in the EU (or elsewhere but not in the States). 200k is also a bit generous, senior engineers that are specialized in <xyz> tech do earn much much more than that, anywhere from 2x to 5x. Yes, 5x that amount for an engineer. I didn't believe this myself but that's really how it is.

However, given that more and more companies are becoming more open to WFH setting, it will hopefully make the things better for the devs outside the States.

What tech do you have to specialize in to get $1 million a year?

Big-data, AI, HFT ... Basically anything that has been and is a hot topic and which generates a lot of revenue. But I am clearly not thinking of an average Joe level of expertise. It requires to have all around the stack skills including the ability to grasp the big picture of the product and drive it forward.

Technical skills wise, for areas from above, you'd usually be looking at the strong background in algorithms, math & statistics, internals of operating systems, underlying hardware but mostly about the CPU at the microarchitectural level and strong expertise in at least one programming language.

In general in Belgium if you work overtime that time is then alloted to "inhaalrust" up to a certain point (you're never able to work more then 11h/day or 50h/week). Only if you have like a specific agreement where you work "voluntary" overtime, which is not counted towards inhaalrust, but is the standard 50% extra or 100% extra on sundays/holidays.

More info can basically be found on https://werk.belgie.be/nl/themas/werkbaar-en-wendbaar-werk/a... (also available in French).

As for unions, normally if a company reaches 50 employees they are required by law to have a union rep. How exactly that works I don't know. Also while I personally also have never heard of a software specific union, you can always just go with the big normal unions if you want, it's not like they're going to turn you away.

> haven't even heard ever of a union for software developers

Now you have: https://prospect.org.uk/tech-workers/ or https://www.unitetheunion.org/ in the UK.

I had colleagues in both at a previous job, depending whether their jobs were more scientific (we'd call it data science now) or engineering.

Both unions are more general than just software/IT.

It’s very expected to get options, pensions (401k matching) and premium health insurance.

Basically DACH region.

I disagree. I also have all those things you mention. I own a house, but it's far from the city center and my commute is one-hour each way (which thanks to COVID I haven't had to endure for 2 years now, I can't even think of going back to that now). If I wanted to buy a house of similar level as mine, but much closer to the city center, it would cost so much I would need to earn something like twice as much as I earn now to be able to keep up with payments.

That, to me, shows that my salary is still well below the well off people in the city who can afford those houses (for an idea of what I'm talking about: houses in the more affordable areas around the city where you can get 20mins commutes or less, or even ride a bicycle to work, cost upwards of €700,000... with my current salary, the recommendation is that I shouldn't borrow more than €350,000 - around 4.5 times the yearly salary before taxes, so I need to first save around €350,000 or sell my current house and hope I'll make this much in return to be able to buy a house where I want... even then I would be playing with fire as interest rates are set to increase and any increase could get me just below water if I tried something like that). I would say that, given this, to be considered well off you need to make enough to be able to afford a house like I am talking about here, which would require you to probably earn at least €100,000 per year, which is well above my current pay and I don't know any companies here that pay this much for developers no matter how experienced (though I've heard it's possible - just never seen it concretely and never seen offers above 75,000).

Have a Germany anecdote.


That's definitely a you problem, the US is the outlier here.

>30 paid holidays

24. Based on 6 day workweek. So 20. More is optional.

>Unions, Paid overtime

Rarely are there Unions specifically for the IT department. Employers here like "Vertrauensarbeitszeit", which means count your own hours, which usually ends up with you doing more (unpaid) work.

>weekends and calls off work come extra

Also very much depends on the job, many people do it without asking for compensation. In one place just being on call got me a good extra 20% salary, in another they refused to pay for it and now it's "non-mandatory" - but they know someone will likely still pick up the phone.


Biggest scam in history. I get the need for such a programm, but I'll be getting maybe 10% of what I put in out. Fuck being a millennial I guess.

>Flex Time

Already said. Mostly a negative because your performance review will check if your projects, planned with way too little time, will be completed. At least that's the case in development teams. I stick to platform teams for this reason.

Pick companies that have IG Metal deals, for example.

Quite a well known names do it.

>Pick companies that have IG Metal deals

Cherry picking a specific company/domains doesn't help your argument of "everyone in Europe has it so good".

Yeah, everyone knows IG metal in Germany has it good. Others? Maybe not so much.

Whatever I would have written, people would always nitpick one way or the other, so I simplified it anyway.

I am in a company which is part of IG Metal. Still does not work well. IG Metal does a lot of good for us though.

I second that... IG Metal companies have nice deals 35h/week is the norm, 30days paid vacation and a decent salary for germany...

> Healthcare, 30 paid holidays, unions, paid overtime, weekends and calls off work come extra (it is 40h week period, want more pay for it), retirement, flex time, ...

If you are in your 20's, it is totally worth moving to the US where you can get paid 500K+ per year if you navigate your career efficiently. I posit that making this much money more than covers any of these additional expenses that you call out.

Is it really? I mean, you more than likely aren't going to get paid 500k+ per year, even if you "navigate your career" efficiently.

And in so many cases, you might be losing out. Did you want vacation time or do you simply want to work while you are young?

Do you want to have children in your 20's? If so, maybe not move to the US. Your child probably will have citizenship of your home country - but maybe not, especially if you don't move back. Worse, though, is that the child automatically becomes a US citizen. This means that if you move away, your child must have a US passport if they ever want to visit again... or must pay $2350 to renounce. It means that the child will, until they renounce, be taxed by the US government on their global earnings.

You probably won't get 4-5 weeks of vacation a year - and even if you do, it isn't a legal requirement that they let you use much of it. And they probably won't let you take 3 weeks off at a time.

Or you might find that you get sick and lose your job. You might fall in love and realize that your partner isn't eligible to move to your country with you. You might find that your retirement in your home country isn't as much because you haven't paid into it as much (depending on the system). Or you could very easily find that your retirement is tied up in a 401k that failed miserably, leaving you without.

If you have dark skin, you might find yourself dealing with a US police force at a traffic stop in ways you didn't in your home country. Good luck if you are trans, and in some places, a same-sex relationship will get you ostracized. Of course, the places in the US where that happens most aren't places paying 500k - in no small part because those places are few.

So no, it isn't totally worth it to move to the US.

I would like to second that. I would even take education options into account, if I had kids.

I did the calculation for my current job (Germany, huge telekommunications company, city of 200.000 inhabitants). It goes like this

* 72'000€ a year * 38 hours of work per week, distributed to my choosing * 44 days of paid vacation per year * approximately 20 days of paid sick leave per year * 10 days of paid child sick leave per year * covered health insurance

To match those conditions, a job in the US must pay 180'000$ per year (in cash) plus health insurance for me, my family and their education.

Though I do not know what equity is worth. Can those 500k$/y earners get their compansation in cash?

Most vacation packages for software devs are unlimited or in the 3-4 week range. Plenty of time for a long vacation in the Spring and a shorter one in the fall. It's one of the only things that keeps me going through it all

In other words, you might be able to take a couple weeks in the spring - with some companies - and maybe a week during the autumn. Yet stories of folks getting vacation and not being able to actually use the vacation time abound.

It shouldn't be an issue to take all of your vacation time all at once if you should so choose.

Anyone here earning $500k in their 20s like this person suggests?

I’m sure some can but this is not the norm and expectations need to be checked and called out when wrong.

I think it feels like a bit of an extrapolation from recent market conditions. But someone who’s 28 is still in their 20s and can have enough experience to be considered a senior engineer. Big tech companies will pay >$250k for that and recently those companies have done very well in stock markets so if you were offered $x of shares (at the current price) over 4 years at the start of the job, they would now be worth say $2x. If you combine that with a job market where those companies are all competing for the same people it is likely one could do well by being in the group that is being competed for.

So I think it is reasonably plausible for someone towards the older end of the range with a bit of skill and good fortune. It feels unlikely that the trend which I described above (of company stock going up 2x every two years) will continue so I would expect effective compensation to go down a bit. But on the other hand compensation can be pretty sticky and plenty of people will be willing to quit after reaching the 4 year cliff (where their stock awards would no longer be worth 2x what they were meant to be worth) to look for high pay elsewhere.

Most of the devs at prop trading companies in Chicago or New York will hit 500k/yr after a few years if they can hack it and stomach it. Depending on how close to the money they are, it could be 2-6 years.

The fact we’re specifying specific types of roles in specific cities indicates it’s not a case of “just moving to the US to earn $500k”

Yes, and those aren't your typical 9-5 gigs either.

Unless it changed dramatically in recent years, when I was in Chicago prop trading firms were paying mid 200 to 300 after a few years. 500k was definitely not normal comp for most engineers at any trading firm, although obviously there are exceptions.

Thank you. This is really my point. People share these rumors of a small minority making huge sums and normalize it as what anyone can do, which just does harm to the industry and to individuals. People actually in the sector/area know it’s not true yet there are those just sharing things they heard like facts.

Entry-level SWE comp for top-end finance shops in Chicago & NY is 400k+, so, ah, no. See levels.fyi.

While I think salaries have gone up in recent years, I'm also going to call BS on 400k for entry level. I just looked at levels.fyi, and I'm not seeing that all. A couple unverified outliers for Citadel doesn't represent the majority of devs. I'm mostly seeing in the 100-200 region for the firms I checked, with Citadel at the top in the 200-300 region.

Also keep in mind bonuses are rarely guaranteed or part of packages, so they are completely speculative for new grads.

It's not a "couple" of unverified outliers for Citadel, it's like half of their offers in the last few months.

It's also baseline entry-level comp at Jane Street, and Hudson River Trading goes even higher.

First-year bonuses are generally guaranteed, and after that are "speculative" in the same way that stock compensation is speculative - largely dependent on firm performance (though personal performance can actually pull it them significantly in finance, unlike with stock).

I didn't say this was the majority of devs, I said this was entry-level comp for "top-end finance shops", which is true. It is also true that there are competitors in that space which pay much less, just like there are tech companies which pay much less FAANG & Co, but does not mean that FAANG & Co don't exist or shouldn't be relevant to people's decision-making.

We're going from "It's easy to earn $500k" to "Top-end financial shops in Chicago and New York". And if someone gets a good offer they'll be more likely to put it up on Levels.

SBF earned what... $22B in the last three years in crypto by the age of 29? If he posted his earnings on Levels.fyi at Alameda Research can I start suggesting people can earn $1B by 30 by moving to Hong Kong and working for top crypto trading firms because out of the massive amount of people trying to do that, it happens to people from time to time?

The original claim you were attempting to rebut:

> If you are in your 20's, it is totally worth moving to the US where you can get paid 500K+ per year if you navigate your career efficiently.

I don't want to say that it's "easy" to hit numbers in this ballpark as a senior engineer in the US, but the way to do it is relatively straightforward and doesn't require any particularly unusual skills, connections, knowledge, etc.

1) There is a set of companies which pay that kind of money

2) Those companies employ a non-trivial percentage of the software engineers in the country

3) Those companies are _always hiring_ more software engineers at those levels

4) The interview processes for those companies are public and quite similar

Obviously nobody is guaranteed to get a job paying that well at one of those companies. Some people simply won't be able to clear the bar (either technically or socially). But the bar is not "one in a thousand". These companies already employ something like 8-10% of the software engineers in the country, so "one in ten" is a hard _upper bound" on how strict they are (and obviously, since their selection process isn't perfect and they don't in fact have every single 10%ile engineer or better locked up, the bar is lower, probably much lower).

I was in startup land over in SF, so my salary topped out lower at 160k USD but with ~2% equity.

I was in a partnership in a small plane, and one of the guys was "in his 20's making $500k+" at google as an L6 plus retention bonus. Several engineers in my circle (early 30's) are on $500k+.

Currently I'm living in Europe but leaving back to SF. I tell people all the time about salaries in the US and point them to levels.fyi, but these salaries are so detached from their realities that they seem simply unable to believe them. Go look at levels.fyi, it matches very well with what I've heard on the ground.

I think the big question is: can you reach these salaries on a normal work week, or does this require sacrificing your personal life?

For some jobs, higher salaries correlate with worse working conditions. The warehouse worker who moves from day shift to night shift, or the oil worker who moves from onshore to oil rig work, can demand a higher salary.

But more broadly, higher salaries correlate with better working conditions. That warehouse worker will have targets to hit every single shift, get in trouble for being five minutes late, will get written up for taking sick leave without a doctor's note, and will have to pay for their own food and drinks.

On the other hand, most jobs that pay a six-figure salary? There might be quarterly department-level targets, but you won't get fired for missing them. Flexible working hours, and no checks you're putting in your hours. Illness? Take as long off as you need. Of course there's free tea, coffee and snacks. Maybe there's also free breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Just because a job is highly paid, doesn't mean it'll be particularly onerous - in fact, often the opposite!

That's true, but my impression is that many of those super high-paying jobs in the US expect 60-80 hour work weeks. That's a pretty hefty sacrifice. If you can also get those salaries on a 36 hour work week, then that's definitely better.

A lot of Google engineers seem to report working no more than 40h/w on average.

Amazon is obviously notorious. Facebook also seems to involve longer hours. Can't speak for Apple. My friend at Netflix reports working 40h/w on average as well.

I would argue that hours/week and salary are not necessarily directly correlated in the Silicon Valley tech companies.

Personally my most arduous job (50-60+h/w at a Korean conglomerate) was also the least paying (starting salary $35k, left after five years making $60k).

That said, while everyone's circumstances and desires are different, I would say typical quality of life making $300-500k at an above average 50h/w is arguably better than making <$100k USD equivalent at 35h/w even if you include all the European country social benefits. At some point an absurdly high compensation sort of lets you steamroll and acquire those benefits for yourself privately if you want them.

I'm L6 at Google. My work week is the 40 hours of my choosing. I spend Wednesday afternoons with my kids.

I live in Palo Alto so I’m aware - but it is not easy to get to that point. It’s not a case of “oh, move to the US and earn $500k!”.

are you interested in the norm in terms of raw numbers, or where you would need to work to achieve this? and are you interested in people who have won the stock lottery, or just people who have their total comp pegged at 500k+?

assuming the latter, you're looking at getting hired in at level as a senior engineer (maybe one level higher depending on the company) at most of your brand name tech companies that value engineering talent.

Okay sure, but it’s hardly the case one can just join a FAANG company at a senior level to earn $500k easily as OP suggests.

Want to retire early? Easy! Just become a managing partner at JP Morgan in your late 20s and you’ll be rich enough by 30.

Although I have yet to see a person with no lifestyle creep in these kinds of jobs. You start earning, you start spending. Yes, some people don't, but I keep hearing sad stories on that front too (guy did FIRE only for his wife to leave him after 6 months because they didn't keep up with the Kardashians. Some people feel mega-excluded if they can't partake in casual conversations like 'we are shopping for a new expensive carpet' or 'we just got a 8k lamp'.

I don't know if this is who you were talking about, but this guy was a big FIRE proponent/blogger who posted last year about his divorce after not updating his blog for several years: https://livingafi.com. It took a few years of early retirement and his coming down with a medical condition, though: "During this time of physical rehabilitation, while I was struggling with the physical issues, my partner finally figured out what would make her happier. It was a relationship with another man."

i would guess as a percentage there are two orders of magnitude more senior engineers at an arbitrary tech company vs managing directors at an arbitrary investment bank. senior engineer is ~5 years of experience to achieve, with maybe 1-2 years extra if you're meandering.

I was being facetious - advising someone to become rich and retire early by getting a very difficult to achieve role in another country 10x that counties annual salary in their 20s is not much better than saying to someone if they want to become rich they should just become a world famous actor or something. It’s just unrealistic advice that does more harm than good (and it rubs me the wrong way hence these responses lol). It seems to be a view perpetually shared by someone who knows someone who heard something and then treats it as the norm.

It is actually a lot better. The hard part is getting into the US, not getting one of these jobs. People meme about practicing leetcode for months but the reality is you should be able to land an offer with no more than 50-100 hours of practice (sure, you might need to do more if you're not actually that strong, but FAANG literally employees 5%+ of the engineers in the country, their standards aren't _that_ high).

I recently hit six figures at 20. By far not the norm.

There's a huge difference between 100k and 500k though.

The gap between 250 and 500 is far wider than 0 and 250. Six figures at 20 is awesome but it’s not continuous explosive growth

It used to be like that. I was playing with the idea a couple years ago as well. But looking at the social climate in the states, I'll rather keep my low paying job (in comparison to the FAANG) and enjoy the general safety.

You say that like moving to the US is as easy as pie. Emigration to the US is incredibly difficult.

It depends. A friend of mine has been working for Microsoft in Ireland for a few years, and immigration to the US (green card track, two years if employed, I think) for him was practically a formality.

It goes both ways. Emigration _from_ the US to another western country is also incredibly difficult.

Moving from Western Europe to the US is such a QOL decrease that even for 500k, people are only going to do it if they are desperate.

Because Western Europe and the US are such homogeneous entities.

I will bite. Show me links to the data on this.

Looks like there are plenty of $200k SE jobs in Amsterdam. It's just that most of them are at Booking and Adyen.

Plenty idk. Could be that high earners really like reporting about their salaries? I mean it must feel much better to go into a salaries website and tell everyone you're making 200K than it is 70K, so it could be biased upwards. Truth is these Dutch companies don't have to pay that much - so many people from all over the world want to work there 80-100K is more than plenty. Maybe super high management will get 200K.

That's possible, but if Amsterdam has big name tech companies, Booking and Adyen are definitely it, so perhaps it makes sense that they pay more. Sadly I'm not that interested in working for them; Booking uses way too many dark patterns for my taste, and I've been to Adyen's office, and they had dozens of programmers working in a single noisy room. That didn't appeal to me at all.

What are the big name tech companies in Amsterdam (sorry, dumb american here)

Well, Booking and Adyen mostly. I'm sure there are more, but these two are probably among the most famous.

Assuming success and a better career outcome away from home without support from anyone.

Yes, but, it is trivial to pack bags when young, show up for job, rent a furnished place, and just start living.

If the job doesn't work out, you can just pack and go home.

Worst case, you get to see a new city, meet new people, and have some memories.

> Ah, and in some countries having too many companies on the CV isn't well seen, it appears the candidate isn't able to fit-in anywhere.

It is changing though in the tech field. Yes, it used to be that 10 years in the same company showed that you're loyal and dependable, but now it's more like "so you haven't learned anything new or been in a different environment in 10 years?". There's a difference between changing jobs twice a year and every few years.

As a software developer, if anyone asked me something like "Should we hire this person, who has had 5 jobs in 10 years?" I would suggest caution. Not immediate rejection, but at least caution. Especially, if all they talk about in the interview is, how they introduced new tech xyz at previous employer. Even more so, if it is about some frontend framework of the month. For me 5 jobs in 10 years would still be some kind of an at least yellow to orange flag.

Many people just want to try out new tech and when that fun is over and they have introduced the cost of complexity for that new toy, they run off to the next job. "Improving" the world in another place.

Fun for them, maybe, but bad for the employer. 2 years is often barely enough to have experienced maintaining the full system of the employer for a while and have felt the costs of complexity. Someone who runs from that every 2 years ... I would be careful with that. I am not saying, that this is the case with everyone, who follows the 2 years strategy, but often it is.

In comparison, if I was visiting interviews and if someone interviewed me and asked something like: "So you haven't learned anything new or been in a different environment in 10 years?". I would probably start to laugh and mention to them, how I had a major hand in basically everything that was developed in the whole organization, have done everything from dev-ops to backend and frontend and more in my job and I have maintained it. If that is nothing to them, then they are probably do not value experience or have no idea what to look for.

This post really strikes me as ignorant. Most of the developers stay around 2 years in a company, because the companies usually do not make market price adjustments to the salaries and you start to lag behind if you stay too long.

For example, after 2.5 years, I am looking for a new job, as the company is simply refusing to make adjustments based on the market prices, even after a promotion, I am making 20 percent less than I should be making right now, and this is not an isolated incident.

Staying at a company for 10 years either means that the company is the perfect place (then, why are you trying to leave?), or you just acquired tons of skills in your job that are not transferable to your next job, which both do not look good. Especially, when the job market is so hot right now, it's either that you can not find a new job after withering your skills, or something unpleasant happened in your perfect company and you are looking your way out.

That's a pretty harsh categorization. I am a hiring manager at my company and I echo GP's thoughts almost exactly. An extended history of 2-year engagements is not necessarily a dealbreaker, but it requires explanation. The hiring and onboarding process is arduous enough without having to repeat it every two years for every position.

I get what you're saying about the salaries -- our company just recently started a program to normalize salaries with the market and it was certainly sorely needed as we had become notably out of sync. But from the perspective of the business, we don't start getting a strong positive ROI out of a new hire until about a year in. To turn over staff after less than two years is a real cost to us and potential employees that are prone to that are often not the best choices when that risk is factored in.

I also reject your false dichotomy. There are not just two reasons to stay at a company for 10 years. You could, as just one example, strongly care about the mission of the organization and/or the work that you are doing. People do work at nonprofits despite their generally lower salaries.

I'm sure you have pursued all avenues with the company you are currently at, but on the off chance you haven't tried it, I suggest talking frankly with your manager about your market value (backed up with hard numbers from reputable sources) and pointing out that their cost to replace you _and train your replacement_ would greatly exceed the cost of bringing you up to a competitive salary. If the manager has latitude and a brain, this might work for you.

I have discussed this with my team leader, but, unfortunately, my company's HR/People organization do not believe in opening up Pandora's box by increasing salaries.

The discussions with my team leader/manager has been going on for more than 6 months now, and it always hit up the same wall: The salary bands are inflexible and the short sighted approach of "making an offer after the employee puts their notice in" culture continues. The HR team believes that (as this is what they have been doing pre-COVID), they can just import people below the market value abroad and replace the people asking for more salaries, although this is just a false notion right now, and they are having extreme problems with hiring.

> You could, as just one example, strongly care about the mission of the organization and/or the work that you are doing. People do work at nonprofits despite their generally lower salaries.

Yes, but this is something that needs to be explained to the hiring manager. Leaving after 2.5-3 years are now the norm, and staying for 10 years is now an outlier, unlike what the GP trying to picture 2 years stays as red flags. I do not feel pressured to explain why I want to leave the company, mostly what I am being asked is what I am looking for in the new company.

I feel sorry, that you are in this situation. Consider this: If they are willing to raise wage when employees put their notice in, then perhaps that has become the normal flow in the organization, towards higher salary. Or also: If they are willing to pay higher salary then, why not before one starts drama?

I am talking from a position of never having had to ask for a raise, so I am probably biased as well. My job is not a job, in which one can sit back and do a lot of busy work. We have new challenges often and are developing the core product, while the organization is growing and there are more customers all the time. We are thinking about scalability of the product and such things. Many things are in the making. Is it the perfect job? Maybe not. It depends on what you value in a job. Pay, work-life balance, what you work on, co-workers, office setup. There are many things, so the answer might look different for different people.

Best wishes for the future and hopefully you will get that raise.

> I feel sorry, that you are in this situation. Consider this: If they are willing to raise wage when employees put their notice in, then perhaps that has become the normal flow in the organization, towards higher salary. Or also: If they are willing to pay higher salary then, why not before one starts drama?

Well, interestingly, they are not being logical at all. I am not sure why, probably they think that they are making some kind of "savings" by underpaying their employees, as long as they can get away with it.

> Pay, work-life balance, what you work on, co-workers, office setup.

Exactly. I would be lenient on salary if the other factors were nice, but they are pushing heavily on not making working from home available. They are now pushing for a hybrid model, but, from their actions and the messages they are conveying, when the pandemic ends, they will ask everyone to return to the offices and cancel the hybrid model once and for all.

> Best wishes for the future and hopefully you will get that raise.

Thank you very much! I hope that as well.

You are making a good point on one hand, but on the other hand you seem to have misunderstood me. Let me elaborate:

> For example, after 2.5 years, I am looking for a new job, as the company is simply refusing to make adjustments based on the market prices, even after a promotion, I am making 20 percent less than I should be making right now, and this is not an isolated incident.

OK, that is just one job change. It is not like 5 in 10 years. It becomes increasingly unlikely, that every company you work in behaves like that, the more years and job changes you add. As in 6 jobs in 12 years makes that explanation more unlikely than 2 jobs in 4 years. I think everyone is fine with a few quick job changes. Just don't let it become a pattern. And even then I mentioned, that I would not immediately reject, but caution. I am not seeing, what is ignorant about that, tbh. So yes, if the company does not want to adapt, or pay for experience, then I would not argue against job change. However, also one should consider, that most people make way less money in the job market and that they are not in the position to ask for a raise every so and so many years, just because those years have gone by. Software developers already earn good wages usually, in many areas, and I am not merely talking about the valley or stuff like that. Just compare your wage with nurses and similar.

I am also not arguing about wanting to get paid a proper wage. Maybe I would argue a bit against always wanting more, because you can have more elsewhere. That does not really entitle anyone to "have a right to get paid more". Of course you are free to aim for money rather than solidity, but if you do it frequently, you will one day have to face the consequences. Those being, that people might have a hunch, that you will be gone at the first sign of higher pay elsewhere. (Exaggerating here, ofc.)

But now to the points, where I think you misunderstood me:

> Staying at a company for 10 years either means that the company is the perfect place (then, why are you trying to leave?), [...]

Well, I did use the conjunctive form there. I am not.

> [...] or you just acquired tons of skills in your job that are not transferable to your next job, which both do not look good.

And those are the only 2 options you see? That either skills are not transferable or that it must be the perfect place? Sorry, this is waaay to black and white. It is also possible, that you learn many skills on your job, which are indeed transferable. That is a possibility you do not consider.

> Especially, when the job market is so hot right now, it's either that you can not find a new job after withering your skills, or something unpleasant happened in your perfect company and you are looking your way out.

Why do you automatically assume, that everyone who works somewhere for a longer time has "withered their skills"? It's non-sense in that generality.

> I am also not arguing about wanting to get paid a proper wage. Maybe I would argue a bit against always wanting more, because you can have more elsewhere. That does not really entitle anyone to "have a right to get paid more". Of course you are free to aim for money rather than solidity, but if you do it frequently, you will one day have to face the consequences. Those being, that people might have a hunch, that you will be gone at the first sign of higher pay elsewhere.

This is self-correcting though: if you end up with a CV with so much job-hopping that you don't get any more offers because of that, you'll just stay where you are until your last experience is long enough to prove that this is not a concern anymore. So I wouldn't worry about that.

No hard evidence here, but I think you really have to push it to end up in this situation, and I don't think 3 or 4 two-year stints put you in this position (especially not in SV, but even elsewhere as long as you have a story to tell). Talking about the market in general, of course some companies might have biases for candidates who only had longer experiences.

As I explained in a sibling comment, unfortunately, the 2-3 year stays are now the norm and 10 year stays are the outliers.

Doing the same job in the same company does give you blind spots, as 90 percent of the companies do not allow novelties in their processes and tech stacks, e.g. you might not be allowed to do containerize your applications, as the current procedure "just works". If your job allows you to sharpen your skills, keep up with the tech stack, allows you to learn new algorithms and add new skills to your arsenal, even after 10 years of work: Congratulations! You have the perfect job, please let me know of the company, so that I can apply.

>OK, that is just one job change. It is not like 5 in 10 years. It becomes increasingly unlikely, that every company you work in behaves like that, the more years and job changes you add. As in 6 jobs in 12 years makes that explanation more unlikely than 2 jobs in 4 years.

Exactly! The frequency needs to be slower, as with more experience, you are supposed to have a good sense what works out for you and choose a job that you won't be leaving after a year or two. That is why you are expected to stay longer as you get more experience, from what I understand with my measly 6 years of experience in the field.

But, maybe you should also consider that the job market has changed and 2 year turnovers may not present a huge red flag, as long as the candidate can explain why they wanted to switch jobs. Although, many companies are now optimizing their salary/perks/promotion structure and their culture for developers staying for 2-4 years, instead of 10 years as it is used to be. All my three companies were like this, maybe I am just too unlucky, I guess.

Depends, there is a big difference between staying at the same role or having moved between roles while at the same company.

Also better have a good answer why having changed so much between companies, saying it was for more money isn't going to be a good outcome on an interview.

This has never been a problem for me. The job I stayed the longest was almost 4 years, most were 2 years or less. Switching jobs is good for your development and growth.

If you want a good answer for that question, tell them you switch jobs once it's become clear that there's not enough room for growth in a company anymore. And this growth isn't just about salary; it's also about learning new skills, new technologies, new responsibilities. If they want to keep you longer than that, they need to keep investing in you.

I'm from Europe and I don't find unions particularly attractive, especially when they want to function like guilds, as they do in my country. That's basically gatekeeping and they want to have the power to specify salary ranges based on qualifications (e.g. university degrees, certifications, etc). A lot of people in the tech community are self taught and don't always take well to the idea that the only way to prove your worth is with a piece of paper they'd have to pay for.

In my current situation (UK) I have all the benefits you mentioned with none of the drawbacks, especially not the salary $60k salary cap (which I think is a misconception since some jobs I looked at during the whole Brexit fiasco were in Europe and paying closer to €90k).

I don't know about unions in the UK, but in some other European countries your union won't have anything to do with your salary negotiation or setting industry-wide salary ranges.

They might if you're in a teacher's union, or working in some minimum-wage job with a mandatory union.

But for any high-paying position like software engineering your union is there to have your back if you're being screwed over on your employment contract, to bust the balls of employers who worked you for 41 hours, but only paid out 40 etc.

It's essentially a form of collective employment insurance for your industry, for which you'd pay a small monthly fee.

I'm not saying software devs have it necessarily bad in Europe, but a talented individual in Europe is better off doing something in finance (accountant, tax advisor), medicine or law. The salaries will be better, the work more appreciated, and probably better job security. The fact that giving options is so rare in Europe is mind blowing for such a so called socialist continent. It's actually the U.S who is socialist for its tech workers.

>30 paid holidays

I'm always angered by these over-generalizations for the whole of Europe. Europe is not a single country with identical laws and working conditions but they differ wildly by borders.

The minimum amount of vacation days by EU law is 20 per year for every full-time worker in the EU but workers can get more based on union negotiations of each individual country or individual company perks that wish to attract talent.

In Austria, the norm is 25 paid vacation days a year for all full-time workers including tech workers. I rarely saw more that 25 days of vacation offered for tech workers here even at supposedly "top" companies which Austria doesn't have many of.

>paid overtime

Same for this. In Austria, most tech jobs don't pay overtime (thanks to shitty "all-in" contracts) but, factory style jobs with clocked shift-work do, since those are usually unionized and the metall workers union is one of the strongest in the country. Also many jobs, especially in public healthcare sector do a lot of unpaid overtime due to underfunding and staff shortages. In low-skilled jobs with high competition, like hospitality and cleaning services, unpaid overtime and your boss being abusive is pretty much the norm.

>Ah, and in some countries having too many companies on the CV isn't well seen

Gee, let me guess, hyper-conservative, 100-year-old German boomer companies(factories)? They're free to expect that, but staying 10+ years at the same company was good way-back-when there wasn't rampant inflation, and rampant real-estate prices, and a factory worker could support a family and buy a home from his income and he'd be employed till retirement and the company would always invest in his training. Those days are long-gone now thanks to globalization, offshoring of jobs and unrestricted immigration, so any company is happy to keep your wage growth below asset inflation levels as you loose out and the company wins as inflation is eating their loan paybacks and the salary they have to pay you, so the only way for you to claw back some of those losses is to job-hop (if you can).

And if you don't like it, there's nothing you can do about it if you don't have skills in high demand in a filed suffering from a shortage in your domain, as unlike the 1960's when even workers with basic education(high-school) had leverage, the company can now hire through a plethora of more candidates thanks to easy immigration, or offshore your job completely to a palace with less employee/environmental protection, while paying fuck-all in taxes through their shell company registered at a post-box in Luxembourg, basically depriving workers of most of their leverage they had in the past. That's why political parties on both extremes of the spectrum are seeing a resurgence in Europe. If we don't fix the rampant wealth inequality yesterday, we're gonna see political extremes and civil unrest growing stronger in Europe. Which is why I guess the EU nation states are so keen on gaining more surveillance powers and banning encryption, to make sure they stomp out any civil unrest before it happens.

The biggest perk we have in most EU countries is paid sick leave and health insurance if you lose your job. If your health ever declines and you end up loosing your job this is invaluable to not becoming homeless. Although many of those social benefits suffered cutbacks and receiving them became stricter in some countries after the 2008 recession.

Yeah same in the UK. 25 days is the norm. 28 days is good. 30 days is very rare. Also nobody gets paid overtime, the company's pension contribution is 5% of your salary.

Yes benefits are better in Europe, but not so much that you're better off earning $100k here than $200k in America.

And you will rarely even earn $100k.

Like I live in a European capital and am just below $100k after almost 8 years of experience.

We're just colonised by massive US corporations which ship the profits back to the US (and avoid as much tax as they can!).

> We're just colonised by massive US corporations which ship the profits back to the US (and avoid as much tax as they can!).

We're colonized by the over-regulation that doesn't appreciate entrepreneurship and stifles innovation. That's why big tech almost never starts in Europe. For better or for worse.

100K is really high for Europe unless you're in Switzerland/UK. Was living in Netherlands and 85K Euro is really really good, that's probably the top 10% of engineering earners.

But does this include bank holidays? We have 8(?) paid bank holidays in the UK so even 22 days is in reality 30. There are much fewer in the US.

The UK implementation of the WTR requires that (full time) works have a minimum of 28 days paid leave (including the Bank/Public holidays - of which there about 8).

Contract normally specify the paid leave excluding such Bank Holidays, so will be a minimum of 20. It is only the days above those 20 where the employer is giving one something extra.

Err, what? The company I work for (in the US) has like 13-14 paid holidays, and recently gave everyone an extra 3 days off right before the New Year. I think we probably have one or two more than average, but not by that much.

It doesn't, so yeah standard is 33 days including bank holidays. How many are there in the US?

Why would you include national holidays into vacation days? National holiday is more like an extra sunday. You can't move it for example if you're on a medical leave through it.

I worked for a company in the UK who allowed the option to work on Bank Holidays and take those days in lieu, was great way to actually get some developing done without the constant interruption of working in an open plan office.

You can't move it, but you do get paid. So it's worth something.

Just wanted to add that in Austria you have:

* 25 paid days off (vacation)

* + 13 paid days (national holidays/bank holidays)

* + 1 personal paid day off (this is quite new)

* + 5-10 paid days off to care for a sick child

* + 1-3 paid days off for moving/wedding

* + up to 40 days paid sick leave (per case)

* + 40-80 days paid off for pregnant women (Mutterschutz)

* + some companies/contracts offer more than that

additionally to that you have:

* Karenz - up to two years maternity leave (paid, but capped)

* Bildungskarenz - up to one year education leave (paid, but capped)

* Arbeitslosengeld - unemployment insurance for at least six months, but up to 5 years (paid, but capped)

All this stuff does not depend on your employer. For some

(everything based on 5 day workweek)

Just to add some information for Poland.

The standard is 20 days of holidays, although if you've been in the workforce for long enough (I think it's 10 years) or completed tertiary studies and worked for a few less years you'll get 26 days of holidays each year.

There is paid overtime with a maximum number of days and hours that you can work per year. Though in my industry some people end up chewing through that within the first few months. Things are better in this company for now.

As far as job hopping on the resume, I think the optimal thing to do is to hop every few years, but I don't see that as a negative.

Sure it was a stereotype, still there is contract negotiation, there is the law for all cases and what one can manage to put into their contract.

Also get knowledgeable about work law and have a legal insurance.

Even downgrading my example to how things go back home in Portugal versus DACH where I have been for the last 20 years, I would pick our conditions over FAANG salary without the social part.

>Sure it was a stereotype

Claiming everyone in Europe gets 30 vacation days when that's obviously false is not a stereotype, but a gross over exaggeration. Just because you get that perk doesn't magically make it true for the whole EU.

> unrestricted immigration

The effect of immigration on wages is overblown.


How so?

If you have more people competing for the same job, then the wages go down, and vice-versa, the less potential employees you have, the higher the wages have to go to fill the position.

The supply/demands fraction is basic math. Are you saying math doesn't work?

No, I'm saying research has shown that wages are depressed for some workers, but not by the levels the anti-immigration brigade would have you believe.

>research has shown that wages are depressed for some workers, but not by the levels the anti-immigration brigade would have you believe.

That statement is pretty vague and pretty obvious on some levels but provides no concrete numbers and evidence that's generally applicable (basically it's easy to cherry pick some results and make generic claims afterwards that don't hold water).

I'm not pro-immigration and I'm not anti-immigration but I know math and personally experienced that whenever you have a lower supply of candidates then I have much more leverage for negotiations and better work conditions and have experienced the opposite, of employers being dicks due to over-supply of labor.

I therefore take those "research" findings with a generous train load of salt.

At the risk of asking a stupid question, did you read the linked article? Are those 3 studies it links to invalid? (genuine question)

edit: sorry, just seen your edit. Care to elaborate why you think they are dismissible?

Beautiful, you put into writing what has been on my mind for quite some time.

> Like the OP, my expenses are more than covered, getting more isn't worth the hassle to change.

But (in Western Europe at least) all jobs offer the same nice things: tons of vacation days, unions, paid overtime, healthcare. So switching jobs becomes only about: am I going to get significantly more money or not?

Some of those are nice things, indeed, but when you ballpark the hourly rates, you’re paying a very high price for them.

30 days PTO instead of 15 or 20 and being paid overtime instead of just being paid 3-5x as much with overtime being “included” isn’t obviously better to me.

Faang engineers have most of that plus a few million extra to play with in retirement.

In the USA we describe this problem with the Laffer curve.

Must be nice to live rent-free under the U.S. security umbrella.

Ami go home.

We should build up our own European industry like we had with Linux, MySQL and Nokia, etc.

I would posit that the OP underestimates the impact of his second point: remote-first in a covid world opened up a large swath of opportunities to get very large total compensation bumps everywhere. I'm part of a slack group comprised of ex-employees of a company I used to work at and some folks there expressed that it is entirely feasible to land jobs today that pay a full 100-200k over their current or previous compensation, thanks to big tech companies expanding engineering operations outside of Silicon Valley.

Considering that each of these tech companies are trying to hire in the order of hundreds of engineers, and willing to accommodate remote work from locations that they previously did not consider, is it really a surprise that other companies with less competitive compensation packages are struggling to find talent?

As a Belgian those salaries look like rainbows and unicorns to me, I would love to earn it do not get me wrong but as a good earner in Belgium I earn like 35% of that or so, nowhere near getting close.

How realistic is it really to get such remote jobs for that salary. My skill set, attitude, passion, professionalism and devotion certainly isn't the issue. From what I remember from some job hunts in the past the issue seemed to be mostly that I needed the following conditions:

- Live in US and have permission to work there, OR have a US passport;

- And on top of that be in or around the same time zone as the company's location;

So how feasible is it really to live in Europe and still earn such salaries remotely? I do not mind do the work or hours, sign me up for it, but so far it mostly looks like dreams to me. At the moment my best best to earn that kind of money in the future is to become an indie consultant while also making some software of my own on the side, I haven't found any realistic way so far to earn such money in a stable full-time permanent employee job.

Anyone who can point to some real data on such opportunities rather than just the usual statement that they earn "easily" 200k+ in the bay area and around. I can only dream of it, and while money certainly isn't my main motivator, it would be nice if I could actually have a home and land of my own at some point...

A good way to approach these opportunities is to understand the nature of the opportunity pool. Perhaps the most famous resource on this topic is a video about trimodal compensation distribution by Gergely Orosz[0] (a former Uber engineering manager), which talks about the different types of companies operating in Europe (i.e. local, european, global) and their compensation bands

A thing to note is that even though tech companies are now more open to hiring outside of SV, in the grand scheme of things they still represent only a minority of employers as you travel further out the globe. Which is to say: the opportunities do exist in Europe, but they're not going to come on a silver plate for everyone. As a software engineer, you'll need to put some work in a) finding these employers and b) preparing for their interview structure (which is often said to be difficult to pass)

It is true that these companies used to prefer relocation to US (which require a visa w/ bachelor degree requirements, in addition to the actual willingness to relocate), but now thanks to covid, companies are often willing to hire in Europe (and even as far as India) even despite the timezone challenges. This was brought up by a combination of market dynamics, internal pressure from employees looking to leverage LCOL areas to maximize personal gain, as well as a related shift in the job market overall based on the emergence of tech pockets like in the Netherlands (because real talent grows and eventually needs to grow teams to support their ongoing success). With this said, there are logistical challenges that prevent companies from being truly remote-from-anywhere (e.g. the need for tax entities in the countries where they hire) so there's still going to be some amount of magnetism towards specific tech-oriented locations (albeit better than Bay-Area-or-nothing).

As for real data: one of the most cited resources is the levels.fyi website. It's heavily skewed towards Bay Area, but you can also find information on other tech hubs, correlated to their respective gravitational pull for talent (e.g. Toronto, Canada has a pretty decent amount of data). Another thing to keep in mind is that job postings are often stale (sometimes by years) and they may be more open to remote than they seem.

Compensation is not equal everywhere, and a 200k bump isn't necessarily a given. It's more of a ballpark. The context is that a L5 role (roughly a 5-10 yr senior developer) pays a salary of USD ~150-200k/yr in the Bay Area. For comparison, a similar position for the same company in Bangalore might pay USD ~80k/yr, but Toronto might have very similar pay to the Bay Area pay range. Note that this is only the salary portion. A typical job offer from these companies usually also has an equity portion (i.e. stocks), and equity packages of 100-200k/yr are fairly normal in SV. Adding the salary and equity numbers plus a yearly bonus amount is typically referred to as "total compensation" (or TC) and is what these 300-400k numbers refer to.

In these conversations, typically we talk about L5 as the baseline because that's the level at which there are the most number of job openings for big tech, but there are also opportunities at L4 (junior level) as well as L6+ (staff level), with corresponding adjustments in pay. L6+ roles can in fact pay well north of 500k/yr TC, but needless to say, these are significantly harder to land roles, even in the Bay Area.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8Xpapy6I9E

In Europe it seems to have changed too. Salaries are still of course low compared to the US, but it seems the salaries are stabilising across the continent.

I've been speaking to recruiters recently and a lot more companies are open to fully remote, even across borders. 10 years ago if you wanted the best salary in Europe you would need to go live in London, now there are plenty of companies hiring remotely across Europe and paying salaries close to what you'd get in London.

I interviewed for a similar senior role in London and Berlin companies this week, and was really surprised the German company was paying more. Even working for local companies in Eastern countries you can often get good enough salaries, so that relocating to traditional tech hubs in Western Europe isn't really worth it, once you take into account cost of living adjustments.

Mmm.. I think it’s unlikely. London salaries at the top of the scale are not that far from the equivalent US. In Europe I don’t think it is the case, depending on your definition of close obviously.

some rough numbers from last year... very senior tech role - fully remote :

* London : >100k pounds = ~120k E

* Berlin : >90k E

* Sofia : >50k E

but, when applying the taxes thereof:

* London : >120k E - 45% taxes -> 66k E

* Berlin : >90k E - 45% taxes -> 50k E

* Sofia : >50k E - 10-15% taxes -> 45k E

Which means.. it mostly depends where you (want to) live.. as differences in price/culture of life are much more than above differences.

Your calculation is way off, UK taxes are progressive but you don't just get a 45% once you reach the threshold - otherwise there would be salaries where it would be better to earn less than slightly more.

Here, the calculation: https://listentotaxman.com/?year=2021&taxregion=uk&married=f...

120K EUR is 79.7K E

PS: Also 120K EUR in the UK is NOT very senior.

I haven't checked the other two numbers, but your UK tax calculation is off. A more accurate after-tax number (applying correct income tax bands and national insurance) is €80K.

>but, when applying the taxes thereof:

And once you apply the CoL adjustments, the numbers further skew in favor of Eastern Europe.

100k-200k on top of let's say 100k? So they would be making 250k per year? How common is this?

100k is below starting salary in the Bay Area or Seattle. Most senior folks make 300-450k with Staff level engineers making 600-800k.

I don’t know if that’s true. I live in Palo Alto and know a fair few people at a fair few companies. Outside of a handful of companies they’ll only be hitting those with illiquid highly-valued stocks - not with base & bonus.

Sounds like someone who invested in property in the Bay Area or Seattle and is trying to get its value to go up. I would need to see numbers on that.

Most? As in over 50% of all senior folk in the Seattle industry make 300-450k?

Definitely not. Total comp of senior engineers at Microsoft in Seattle is nowhere near this. (I am one of those at this point in time)

The point that kinda got lost here is that outside of the big tech circles, equity packages are basically non-existent. So, whereas in, say, Google Canada, you might make CAD 150k salary + 100k equity, in CGI[0], you might only make a CAD 120k salary with no equity grant for a similar level of seniority.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CGI_Inc.

It is an unfortunate truth that Microsoft's pay between entry level to somewhere around principal is not competitive with a substantial number of companies. That is not to say that Microsoft doesn't provide other benefits, but top tier compensation is not one of them.

I don't mind. When I look at the vast majority of software engineering jobs out there even Microsoft compensation is good, and perfectly fine for Seattle.

I used to work at Google too (in Mountain View). Believe it or not I liked working at Google and I also like working at Microsoft.

I don't need to chase top tier compensation. I just do things I enjoy where I'm learning and my career can progress. Right now I'm mostly writing in Go working on an OSS project managed by the Cloud Native Compute Foundation.

As an aside, early retirement is not a goal of mine.

to be clear i don't think you should mind if comp-maximization isn't your sole focus now (or ever).

Keep in mind that in conversations about big tech compensation, the baseline is typically Bay Area salaries. This is the area where you can find the most public info on (e.g. levels.fyi). In my specific case, I'm talking about Toronto, where a senior dev salary for a local shop is around CAD 120k/yr. For comparison, a L5 role in Bay Area job offer is around USD 150-200k/yr salary plus another 100-150k equity (plus a few more thousands in yearly bonus). For Toronto specifically, these number more or less translate 1:1 (i.e. you could expect a CAD 150-200k salary + CAD 100-150k equity, for a total compensation of CAD 250-350k). In Bangalore, the total compensation after currency conversion is going to be significantly less than Toronto's in terms of absolute dollar value, though it'd still be quite above the local average.

For a public big tech company, USD 250k total compensation for a L5 in Bay Area is pretty low ball. For a pre-IPO company, you might be looking at USD ~200k/yr cash, and if you're lucky to go through an IPO while holding RSUs, you'd see a huge income spike on the IPO year. Note that pre-IPO companies still count paper equity in their TC numbers, so a 300k total compensation number might actually just be 200k cash + 100k paper money.

It also opened the door to get more offshoring, why pay SV salaries when they can pay Infosys rates (pick your favourite offshoring company name).

While this is true and there are some good contractors to be found in that bucket, I’d say we are bound to rediscover the lesson that you mostly get what you pay for… minus cultural and language barriers.

> engineers doing soul-wrenching, boring jobs in toxic environment who still say because they are very generously compensated (hello FAANG).

This is also what a lot of europeans do with FAANG jobs.. get a FAANG job, move to america, live there for 3-5 years in a 4 bedroom apartment with 12 roommates, eat ramen, come back home, and buy a house.

There's also a question of how much more money do you get... 5% more to do something shitter than now... not worth it... but 50% more, is enough to think it through, if nothing else, how much sooner can you retire with that.

There is the proverb: The engineer is the mule, business people ride on towards (their) success.

> $50 to $60k salaries are the norm

As a newly graduated CS student in Denmark I got a job earning $74k a year. I got warned by my union that my salary was on the low side and, come the first negotiation round of the year, I should ask for a larger raise than simply a yearly adjustment. And based on my union's numbers I don't think almost any developer is working for $60k or under in this country.

> If you look outside of coastal cities, there are plenty of job offers for engineering jobs that pay less than 6 figures. Over in Europe and East Asia, $50 to $60k salaries are the norm. And people job hop frequently for a few extra $k because that corresponds to a significant increase in quality of life for them. The difference between a 2 br and 3 or 4 br apartment, between another kid or not, etc...

In my eyes, this is a good point.

Currently working in Latvia and getting a net salary of around 2k euros a month now - staying at the same company makes it increase by a few hundred euros per year. Actually provided more information in another comment of mine, compared some of the public sources for software dev salaries in the adjacent countries too: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29595158

Also wrote about my savings and financial circumstances on my blog a while ago as well: https://blog.kronis.dev/articles/on-finances-and-savings

Thus, job hopping even for comparatively small increases is the smart thing to do, as well as looking for opportunities like side hustles and attempting to take advantage of a globalized economy that lends itself well to remote work (something that i'll inevitably need to explore once i'll have finished a pretty large enterprise migration and some pilot projects in my current place of work).

Now, my salary is still liveable and certainly better than those of who work for the local government, who receive about half of what i do (according to https://www-visasalgas-com.translate.goog/valsts-iestades?_x... which is a site that displays the published data per government org) and many other seemingly essential jobs (like teachers, medics, firemen, policemen all of which are comparatively underpaid). Even as a software dev, buying my own house anytime soon is unlikely, as is buying a new car, or many other luxuries that others take for granted.

In short: the original argument definitely holds true for those who are well compensated, but yours is also valid for those less so. Already, there is talk locally of not having enough engineers, especially in those aforementioned government jobs.

> If you look outside of coastal cities, there are plenty of job offers for engineering jobs that pay less than 6 figures. Over in Europe and East Asia, $50 to $60k salaries are the norm.

Indeed, the population of people who post on this board are very binomial, and it often causes blanket statements to be confusing to one side or the other.

It seems you are over-generalizing. Maybe people are not like you.

> People will absolutely leave your company if they think they can get paid more elsewhere.

Maybe you will. Maybe they won't. Everyone has his own bar for "enough" money. For some there is no such bar.

> but I think you may only be speaking for a subset of engineers that are already fairly well compensated

Didn't the parent directly say that? Money not matering after a certain point means that it still matters before that point.

None of your points are untrue, but "engineers that are already fairly well compensated" is exactly who OP and the article are referring to:

> Read any publication that cares about business, from the NYT to the Wall Street Journal, and you’ll see a ton of hand wringing about The Quittening, and the accompanying talent shortage.

These publications aren't talking about the workforce in general, they're pseudo-gossip articles about the wealthy top engineers and how well-off they are that they can focus on things other than how much they put into savings each paycheck.

Also, I feel like engineers are much more likely to be attracted the FIRE mentality and tend to have the incomes and low spending habits that can get them retired easily by their mid 30s.

I'm personally in that boat, and frankly, I'm a little bored but not bored enough to go back to work as an SE full time. If companies offered more part time work and highly flexible work, it might be enough to drag me back in.

Even large six figure salaries just aren't enough money for the soul crushing reality of renting out my brain full time to solving someone else's problems now that I have enough.

"that can get them retired easily by their mid 30s"

Maybe a small subset. The median dev salary is $110k. So no, only a very small number are able to retire in their 30s.

The absolute value of your salary doesn't tell you anything about how long it takes to get to retirement (or more accurately, financial independence). That's exclusively a function of your spending and saving rates. https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/01/13/the-shockingly-si...

Forecasting your spending rate far enough into the future, however, is a very tricky problem if you're trying to retire at 30, especially if you're living through turbulent times.

I'd rather work 3 days a week until I'm dead then let my skills start deteriorating now and live the next 60 years in fear that my fixed income won't be able to sustain me.

spot on. Energy prices are going to rise in Europe for the years ahead so will inflation and then your savings will dwindle... In my country inflation is already around 2.5% years on years.

As someone who's been working for +10 years now for 3 day's a week I can say: spot on!

I've got savings enough for fun projects or holiday's, and my 3 day job simply pays the rent/gas/electricity bills.

If I may ask, what work do you do / what company do you work for that allows you to only work 3 days a week?

When you forecast your spending rate, you naturally take some security margin, for example by retiring when your passive earnings gets 1.5x times larger than your targeted spending. And that security margin (which won't be spend most years) will compound.

Sure, you might encounter a black swan event which force you out of retirement only 3 years after you started, and at that point your security margin won't have increased your stash by much, but at the same time your skill won't have deteriorated much in 3 years.

It also work even if the black swan even happens 20 years after your retirement. You just need to take a security margin your are comfortable with, and project how much you will have after 3, 10, 25 years to see how much you have for unforeseen events.

The riskiest years are the first few after retirement. I.e., your skills should still be pretty relevant, even if you go full luddite in retirement.

I would also love to work 3 days a week, but no employer I've encountered is interested in this.

Well then I guess we'll have to find ways to make it clear that they'll like the alternatives less.

The absolute value of your salary does highly correlate with cost of living, unfortunately. Which may have an effect on your savings rate.

Yes it does.

If you have a high salary, you are probably living in a HCOL area.

If you have a low salary for the same kind of work, then you are probably living in a LCOL area.

The savings rates of these different individuals could be the same if the salary difference is proportional to the cost of living difference.

But 20% of $200k/yr is $40k/yr, while 20% of $100k/yr is $20k/yr. If you make twice as much while saving the same rate (i.e. cost of living goes up proportionally), you'll still end up saving twice as fast. Then move to a LCOL area, and you've got twice as much saved as the people who've lived there all their lives.

Yep - this is what a lot of people who suggest moving to a cheaper area as a solution for not being able to buy a house don't seem to think about.

Earning (made up numbers because I don't even live in the USA and I don't know what is reasonable) $100k and spending half of it on rent with no hope of buying a house is still better than earning $50k in an area with much cheaper housing.

Of course if you can score a remote job then you can have the best of both worlds, but that isn't always possible (and some companies seem to pay differently based on your COL now).

I think it's a pretty big unsourced assumption that savings rates are similar between LCOL and HCOL areas. I'm curious if that's really true; I wonder if there's any research/polling done on this.

Even if the saving rates are the same, the higher salary in a higher COL wins because you can always move before retirement.

However, today’s high inflation rates make all these computations iffy, and if you rely too much on inflation beating stock market returns, you won’t be able to ratchet down on risk as you get closer to your preferred early retirement date (a crash can dump you back in the workforce at a bad time). Also, many people in HCOLs don’t want to downgrade to LCOLs after they retire.

Too bad Medicare doesn’t transfer to low cost but nice southeast Asian countries.

Why do you assume a LCOL area is a downgrade. Those asian countries have still have pretty cheap private healthcare.

Many people in HCOL areas think LCOL areas are a downgrade, and…they are cheap for a reason. If it’s just lack of jobs, for a retiree that’s fine, but high crime bad weather poor infrastructure bad schools bad scenery are also possible. You don’t want to stop living in retirement, especially if you retire early.

Desirable places to retire like Santa Fe are already getting expensive.

Cheap private healthcare works for small things, but you are paying out of pocket for everything and if something big comes up you might not even be able to access the care you need. Guam might work instead, but they aren’t cheap and are pretty far away from anything.

I still don't see you mention a reason for the (rather US centric) assumption. Fact is many LCOL areas are upgrades if you don't need to work.

> Fact is many LCOL areas are upgrades if you don't need to work.

Sorry, having lived in Mississippi for 4 years, that is not really true. Or I guess it depends on what you mean by "many", because there are many bad cheap places out there (e.g. Gary Indiana, Port Gibson Mississippi, Monroe Louisiana, ...). It also depends on what you mean by upgrade: many people like big city amenities (food and cultural options) and would see moving to the sticks as depressing, just like many would see the opposite (they love the country side, hate big cities).

Internationally, LCOL areas are generally in developing countries, and even a city like Bangkok will get expensive after awhile (though big cities in the west might get more expensive faster). It is still a trade off, many can't make (and many can, good for them).

I don't think that is accurate. I would say it is a combination of both.

The article you link to obviously makes it sound like it's an exclusive function. But it simply dismisses the fact that not everyone can reasonably sustain the savings rates mentioned.

Sure, there's reports of very motivated people that live on next to nothing and have a huge savings rate for the first 10 years of their working life, abstaining from everything including having a family and such. For the vast majority of people this is not something they can achieve and that is not taken into account by the 'simple math'.

I would agree with the author that having Starbucks coffee twice a day is not worth retiring later. I'd even give him Cable TV. But I'm not going to live like a hermit. Different people are on different places of this gradient. If I increase my take home pay, I can stay on the same savings rate as before and retire earlier (assuming that I don't want to make a certain percentage of my last pay during retirement and instead have a fixed goal for my retirement income).

We all have to make the choice between prioritizing creature comforts and freedom.

I chose freedom. While my colleagues were living in fancy high rise apartments, buying new gaming rigs and cars, taking extravagant international vacations, and getting married and having kids, I was living in a basement studio with my college mattress on the floor and no car for several years while biking to work.

I'm retired and they're still slaving away with no end in sight.

No risk and sacrifice, no reward.

You call it creature comforts. Starbucks every day I would definitely count as that. I don't count having a family as a creature comfort.

FWIW, I'm completely with you on living below one's means. I don't think the math is as simple as the article makes it out to be. It's missing a few value functions that need to be taken into account that influence what savings rate are reasonably possible at various absolute salaries. Your value functions are different from mine though mine are much closer to yours than the ones your colleagues seem to have with a few key differences.

I'm with you on the fancy high rise. Strike that, nobody needs that. Basement studio with a mattress on the floor? Not worth the <$200 savings for a proper bed frame if you ask me. I've lived in a basement apartment for some years as well and it definitely wasn't bad at all. Very livable but it depends on where. One of my colleague's basement studio is not something I could've lived in. The house I now live in is the "cheapest house in the fanciest neighbourhood I can afford" (i.e. no, we did not buy a house at the top of what the bank would lend us).

I'll give you gaming rigs (and games) as well. I've never been a fan of consoles. Regular "business laptops" for not much money can run reasonably good games that are a few years older perfectly fine. And you get to pick and choose the good ones as you have a treasure trove of information from people that have already played them. I would add cell phones to this (and laptops/computers for that matter). Buy a generation or two behind the new fancy one and you're not worse off at all but save a ton of money. Nobody needs the newest iPhone or fancy MacBook.

(International) vacations is something that our value function would assign a relatively high value to. Can't do without. They aren't extravagant. Nobody's gonna get me to shell out 10k to go to Disney Land, sorry. But yes, we will spend the money to make memories together on a backpacking trip through some exotic country. Best ~500EUR flight and very cheap living costs while there that we ever spent. You can use simple math all you want to tell me how much earlier I could've retired if I had not spent the 500EUR and it won't change my mind.

Which brings me to the next value function: family. Definitely worth it. Even retiring later is worth having a family.

> getting married and having kids

i have not met anyone yet who is married with kids but would have preferred an earlier retirement instead. kids are more expensive than all the other things combined that you listed - no amount of living in the basement or saving 30k on having no car is going to make up for that.

if you read the links you posted, a large portion of these are from people who weren't ready, or had kids with disabilities or adopted without enough vetting, or were not financially ready, etc.

all parents go through difficult periods where they do regret not sleeping, or the work. but on the whole, the vast majority would not trade their kids for lonely family-less early retirement.

just because you found 10k comments on the internet doesnt imply this sentiment applies to 7bn people.

it's great that you'll have no regret about never having kids but instead have a ton of money and free time to spend on something else for 40 years.

> just because you found 10k comments on the internet doesnt imply this sentiment applies to 7bn people.

No, but at least the parent provided some kind of source to back up their assertion. Where's yours? I don't think it's safe to assume "nearly everyone who has kids don't have regrets".

I went through a phase 5+ years ago where I was reading a lot about this sort of thing, and found that there are more people who regret having kids (entirely) than I would have expected, and way more people who regret the timing of when they had kids than I would have expected.

As the parent points out, it is very very taboo -- especially for a mother -- to admit this sort of thing, so we can expect this to be under-reported.

i've met plenty who have regretted the timing, or having 3+ kids instead of two. but never about having 1 kid instead of zero and it preventing their otherwise early retirement.

having one kid will delay any kind of FIRE strategy significantly for all but the top 0.01%.

the GP's argument is that people just dont have the willpower to make the necessary sacrifices to retire early...such as simply skipping having those pesky, retirement-draining offspring!

As said earlier, this is a sentiment that is not socially accepted, so you will have a hard time finding examples or people admitting to it.

I have 2 daughters, I love them but in hindsight if I had to start over I don't think I would have kids. And it is not necessarily about the money. I realize I give up waaaay to much of my own needs and freedom. It may just be also about how I am. While many people will tell their kids to litterally go fuck themselves (well with different words) while they are watching football or leave them unattended while they go for a bicycle ride, I am one of those who will never say no when my daughters ask me to play or require assistance for some creative stuff. Yes I enjoy doing stuff with them but I'd rather go for a bicycle ride, play music or do carpentry. Thanksfully there are a few things we have in common, like playing basketball. Now that I am divorced and we share custody of the girls, it makes it feel somehow harder, as I can't just get away from my ex-wife. There is always something to negociate/organize. Thanksfully the pandemic has opened a lot of possibilities regarding work from home so I could change employer without having to move to another place but I'd rather use the remote work possibilities to become a digital nomad and travel all over the world. I would also be happy living in a camper moving from place to place every few weeks/months. Having kids while being separated from their mother makes it impossible.

> or had kids with disabilities

This is one of my biggest fears.

I wouldn’t use Reddit posts to justify a statement of “all the time”.

“All the time” here means it has happened in the past, it happens today, and it will probably continue happening. It may not be a high percentage of parents but it exists. Believe it or not, Reddit is made up of human beings just like you.

"All the time" infers high frequency.

And sure, Reddit is full of humans, but it's nowhere close to a representative sample of the populations. That should be clear as soon as you start reading.

I usually read (and intend, when I write) "all the time" as "more than you'd expect", not necessarily as "with high frequency".

Nothing worth doing is particularly easy, but let me give you a different way to think about it.

You're only on this planet for a few years. You can only taste so much of the human experience. A huge part of the human experience is raising a child. Not experiencing it means leaving a big part of what's possible to experience on the table.

If it's a choice, and you choose, and you're secure in your life, and financially / emotionally / mentally stable, I think regret isn't likely.

> We all have to make the choice between prioritizing creature comforts and freedom.

Of course, this starts from the assumption that work is inherently an undesirable activity and that conversely, pleasurable activities are incompatible w/ work. IMHO, it's not necessarily black and white: it's certainly possible to find satisfaction/fulfillment in one's work (to the extent that some people even choose to work despite not having the financial need to). Personally, I try to find alignment between being a "productive member of society" and deriving happiness from my efforts (both in terms of my work output as well as material gain). I'm sure much more can be said about the drivers of motivation as it relates to finding the meaning of one's life, and the whole thing about life being about the journey, rather than the destination.

In terms of financial independence, I'd be wary of the word "freedom". It can be quite the loaded term, in the sense that one could equally argue that greatly restricting expenditure is "slavery to a run rate", whereas a steady income and a more lavish budget is "liberating". For someone like me who seeks well-roundedness, loaded terms irk me. Though to be clear, I'm not criticizing one lifestyle over another; both FIRE and career-ladder lifestyles are perfectly fine life choices IMHO.

> If I increase my take home pay, I can stay on the same savings rate as before and retire earlier (assuming that I don't want to make a certain percentage of my last pay during retirement and instead have a fixed goal for my retirement income).

That would be extremely unwise - if your savings rate hasn't changed then that means your lifestyle has inflated, and so your fixed retirement income will be a bigger step down and harder to sustain. This isn't just theoretical - people set a retirement goal when they're young thinking they can live like a student, gradually get accustomed to a more comfortable lifestyle, and then get a pretty sharp shock when they try to retire early and realise they're not actually willing to go back to living like that.

The only way increasing your take home pay lets you retire earlier is if you use it to increase your savings rate, by not letting your lifestyle inflate proportionately.

FWIW, this was simply an example to refute the absolute claim of the parent and the article that only the savings rate matters for when you will be able to retire. This one counter example disproved that.

Now as for your claim, I would agree that it is generally unwise to do that. It doesn't necessarily mean that your lifestyle has inflated in a bad way though.

If I make 50k with 10% savings rate (5k savings), single bread winner w/ a family of 2 and I get a raise to 55k, I will now save 6k w/ a 10% rate. The other 4k are used to finally be able to go to the museum with the kid, buy them some used skates so they can go skate in the park in winter whenever they want instead of renting skates once per winter etc. While I agree that this is "a lifestyle inflation" I wouldn't say it's one that affect the retirement in the way you mentioned.

Now if we are talking lotto winner kind of raise while keeping the savings rate at the exact same and low mark, I would totally agree with you. 50k w/ 10% gets a raise to 300k and starts behaving like the parent mentioned (fancy apartment, extravagant travel etc.) I completely agree with you.

> FWIW, this was simply an example to refute the absolute claim of the parent and the article that only the savings rate matters for when you will be able to retire. This one counter example disproved that.

But you don't have a counterexample, not unless you can show someone actually succeeding in retiring on a different savings rate. Plenty of people think they'll be happy to live more cheaply when they've retired, but experience suggests that this isn't actually true, which is what the article is going by.

> The other 4k are used to finally be able to go to the museum with the kid, buy them some used skates so they can go skate in the park in winter whenever they want instead of renting skates once per winter etc. While I agree that this is "a lifestyle inflation" I wouldn't say it's one that affect the retirement in the way you mentioned.

Of course it does. You get in the habit of buying things for the kid. You get in the habit of going to these places. (I don't think it's bad to spend money on things you enjoy, especially if what you enjoy is helping others, but it's important to be aware that it's extremely habit-forming).

You make statements about all people. You are the one that has to prove that this is true. My counter example works perfectly because I only need one. Specifically we still buy used skates for the kids, even though I would definitely have the money to buy new ones. Same for the vacations. They can tell me about Disney Land all they want and even though I could buy that cash right now, I will not.

So you did increase your savings rate after all?

I see what you're trying to do there. I need to quote better. Let's retry:

Quoting myself:

    an example to refute the absolute claim of the parent and the article that only the savings rate matters for when you will be able to retire. This one counter example disproved that.
Keyword: only. My claim is that it's a combination of both. Then you come along and posit that it's impossible not to have an inflation of lifestyle and you won't be able to live off of less than you had before once you retire:

    not unless you can show someone actually succeeding [...] Plenty of people think they'll be happy to live more cheaply when they've retired [...] Of course it does. You get in the habit of buying things for the kid. You get in the habit of going to these places.
As in you are saying that nobody can succeed in living off less money than they had before. This is what I am giving a counter example for in my last reply. I have increased my salary over the years and I have very carefully kept my spending in check and given this continued habit I think it is entirely possible to retire on less income than now (i.e. 'live more cheaply') as expenses we now have (even used skates do cost money) will no longer be present at that time. Of course the jury is still out and we can talk again in 30 years and see how it actually turned out in the end ;) FWIW, if I look at my parents, same thing happened. Living off way less now in retirement than what they had before but it's OK. Kids are out of the house and self-sufficient. We were always frugal.

I'm not claiming how many people do and can do this. Just that it's absolutely possible. It's probably in the ballpark of people that can take 10 years of the beginning of their career to live so frugally that they retire at 32 with millions in the bank :)

Salary is the absolute ceiling for savings rate, so I'd say it's a big factor.

In the same trivial sense, it's also an absolute ceiling for expense rate. Expenses are essential, and it's all about relative savings rate. Salary, ignorant of expenses, is meaningless for these discussions.

You clearly didn't even skim the link I posted.

Yes I did. Your comment indicates that you don't understand ceiling. The article is overly simplistic in regards to things like cost of living, inflation, and returns on the savings.

Do you really think you can save 90% of your income and retire after 3 years? This is terrible financial advice and completely ignores functions and changes in spending due to life events. Not to mention, I don't believe that function is legitimate depending on retirement age and current age combinations.

> Do you really think you can save 90% of your income and retire after 3 years?

You certainly can if you make 5 million a year! Which means that absolute income is absolutely relevant.

Hell, in many places you can retire under those conditions if you "only" make $500k a year. The trick is to move to a much lower cost-of-living area after you retire, often abroad. If that kind of thing floats your boat, anyway.

If your income is $100k and you save $90k, spending $10k, after 3 years, you will have saved $270k. With growth, you might have $300k. To support your ongoing $10k annual expenses, you'd only be spending 3% of your portfolio. The math checks out. Of course with taxes, a savings rate of 90% is more than likely to be possible.

> You can earn 5% investment returns after inflation during your saving years

This is very unlikely long term. Right now treasuries are 5% less then inflation. Lots of FIRE people are going to get shafted.

Not sure I agree. Trinity study suggests that if you retire 30 years before death, you can safely withdraw 4% every year during retirement, regardless of economic fluctuations. If you retire super early and need 50 or 60 years, your safe withdrawal rate is probably closer to 3% or even 2%, though.

Your point may be that we should expect significant economic turmoil in the near- and medium-term, much more than "fluctuations", which may be true, or may not be. Impossible to predict the future.

Consider that the 2021 inflation rate is likely a symptom of COVID. Monthly inflation rates for the last few months of 2021 were trending downward. Hopefully we can expect inflation to get back to something approaching normal by the end of 2022. Even if it takes a couple more years, there's no reason to expect that 7% inflation is the norm going forward.

(Also consider that people who are doing FIRE certainly don't have much in treasuries. It's going to be mostly in stocks. That certainly carries other risks, of course.)

> Consider that the 2021 inflation rate is likely a symptom of COVID

It's mostly a symptom of reckless monetary and fiscal policies.

> Monthly inflation rates for the last few months of 2021 were trending downward

It's the opposite if CPI is to be believed (which is a big if): https://www.bls.gov/charts/consumer-price-index/consumer-pri...

> It's mostly a symptom of reckless monetary and fiscal policies.

... as a result of the pandemic...

The US public will not tolerate sustained high inflation. Congresspeople and presidents who push monetary and fiscal policies that increase inflation (and nominate Fed leadership that do the same) will get voted out over time.

Your chart measures a 12 month trailing computation. That number going up does not imply that the month-by-month inflation is actually going up. If that number went up in December all it means is that December 2021 had more inflation than December 2020. It says nothing at all about the relative inflation between November 2021 and December 2021.

Wow I never heard of the "Trinity Study", its a report written 25 years ago by a few guys at a small university I've never heard of. Remember back then bond yields were 5% and inflation was 2%, Clinton was president and the dotcom boom was really starting. Things are very different now.


I don't think "things are very different now" is a refutation of the study without providing more specifics. It's also been repeated more recently, with updated data. The 30-year results, I believe, still hold, but as I note, if your retirement horizon is much longer than 30 years, you'll have to be more conservative with your withdrawal rate.

S&P 500 returned ~25% this last year, and 110% over 5 years. That's excluding dividends.

That is actually, quite literally, inflation. It's money depreciating in value relative to stocks and financial products. Just like a burger at the golden arches shooting up in price is inflation, so is the price of a stock. It's probably not _only_ inflation, supply and demand will have caused the majority of this shift, since savers saw their money start evaporating. But that is of itself of course a second order effect of inflation, so I think the point stands.

Sure, but the only kind of inflation that really crushes people living off their investments is stagflation, where increasing prices of goods is not reflected in portfolio sizes. If your investments are growing way faster than the price of goods, there is no problem.

To be fair we are living in a crazy unprecedented strong bull market. It will be interesting to see how this holds.

> That's exclusively a function of your spending and saving rates.

Saving rate is bounded above by your income. It's relevant.

Yes, trivially. But the achievable savings rate depends very much on the absolute value of your salary, for any level of target creature comforts.

Simple is not easy. The vast majority of people like to spend.

Who can blame them? You can take your money to your grave, but what use is it then?

Never said it's easy. But spending much below your means is the only reasonable path to financial independence and wealth.

I for one don't want to live in a society that exclusively prioritizes now and doesn't sacrifice anything to plan for the future.

"A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit."

It's harder to plant the older you get though.

you might as well ask what's the point of insurance if you never wreck your car. I have some nice things, but none of them bring me as much peace as having a deep buffer for unexpected problems. if I learned that I would die in a month, I wouldn't be sad that I hadn't managed to burn all my money.

>if I learned that I would die in a month, I wouldn't be sad that I hadn't managed to burn all my money.

I'd probably feel that way too. But I have to ask - how much thought have you really given it? I vaguely remember reading a surprising number of posts from HNW people that regretted not trying certain hobbies / activities when they were young enough fully enjoy them. That saying that no one on their deathbed says their biggest regret is that they didn't work harder, is probably a trope for a reason.

I am in the same mindset. I take deep satisfaction that I have something substantial to leave to my kids. I don't want to spend it on me. I don't like to travel, and I don't like "stuff." I have a few hobbies but they are not expensive.

There's also the fact that most people have to spend. Build your own house? Grow your on food? Most people are buying those.

On $110K income, you could:

- Pay roughly $30K in taxes - Spend $30K, which is close to the median American's individual expenditure - Invest the remaining $50K

At that rate, you can achieve lean FIRE in 15-20 years. So not quite mid-30s, but not far off.

Of course, in a high cost of living area, you might need to spend more than $30K, but you'd also make more than $110K. (For what it's worth, I lived in SF for several years and spent less than $30K annually.)

>The median dev salary is $110k

...in the country with the world's highest dev salaries.

But, this small subset is what company urges to have. If they are willing to lower down the baseline, there are still quite many engineers around the world.

Exactly. Once your needs and wants are met, every extra dollar can just get saved, and means less time until retirement. For this reason, there is never “a point where the money just isn't a motivating factor anymore.” If you are already comfortable and have the trajectory to retire at 55, why not job hop if only to be able to retire at 45? To me, the only point where moar money is truly useless is the day you retire, and even then, maybe you want to pay for your kid’s college or something?

I think it's rather personal. I never plan to retire. I want to die coding. The extra cash isn't really a motivation. I've quit a job that I sort of liked, to take a job that paid 10k less, but was something I ended up loving. I didn't notice the difference in my spending habits.

> I never plan to retire. I want to die coding.

Yea, but:

1. Do you want to die coding for someone else, on boring enterprisey stuff with bad project managers telling you what to do?

2. What if you physical or mental health degrades when you're older, and you simply can't?

I think you have no idea how bad people are with their money even as engineers.

Even a small bleed of a minority retiring early could have huge effects on corporate hiring ability. Especially for senior engineers.

Thanks for writing that. Agreed, many technical people want the spare time and creativity to work on things that interest them. At some point, for those who enjoy intellectual pursuits, time becomes the limiting reagent, not money.

I haven't really seen a whole lot of evidence that there's any stronger correlation between FIRE and engineers compared to other jobs (in fact, many FIRE blogs are from non-eng people).

And conversely, there's plenty of engineers who have kids (hence, very much not FIRE). The vast majority end up going down that route, in fact, at least in my experience.

> in fact, many FIRE blogs are from non-eng people

I don't disagree with your overall point, but I don't think "number of FIRE bloggers who are engineers" is a good proxy for "number of FIRE people who are engineers".

Why do you say kids are incompatible with FIRE? They add some expense, but it is not insurmountable with a high income like many senior software engineers enjoy. There are prominent FIRE folks with kids -- e.g., "Mr. Money Mustache."

MMM sells shovels in a goldrush, and got divorced (with relatively young kids) out the blue while selling his white picket fence (albeit a cheap one) lifestyle dream for years. Hardly the one to bring up as an example for a successful FIREee.

I wouldn't go as far as say they're incompatible; I'm sure it's doable. But there's a pretty big difference in believability between the claim that "engineers are much more likely to be FIRE people, to the extent it makes a noticeable difference in the engineering job market, now of all times" vs "FIRE people w/ kids exist, but are outliers among outliers"

Ok, that seems reasonable. I got stuck on "there's plenty of engineers who have kids (hence, very much not FIRE)," which seems like an oversimplification of your views.

> There comes a point where the money just isn't a motivating factor anymore

That's cuz your numbers are too small. Offer a 50% raise instead of a 20k raise and you will see different results.

> Yes I could quit and get a ~20k raise by shopping my resume around, but I don't need the money

Plenty of stories on Blind of people shopping around and going from 150k TC to 350k TC, so I guess it really depends on your situation.


Also, those highly paid engineers in other companies might be tired of working on surveillance tech but aren't willing to stomach 50% pay cuts because your company is shooting for "market rate" compensation instead of market clearing compensation.

Insight and nuance. Nice.

50% raises are extremely rare to get once you are an established Engineer in my experience. At least if you want to keep the other factors (working time, city etc) and not simply advance by switching to management or similar.

One way is to try switching from a regular industry job to a “giant” such as a FAANG. But these are quite rare in most countries.

Another way would be switching into specific industries like finance - but the high comp there traditionally means giving up some other things such as a guaranteed 40h-or-less workweek. Hard pass from many established engineers.

A third option would be switching to a larger share of non cash comp, but again, equity large bonuses are not commonly part of European comp and comp in traditional industry.

Don't forget to tax out of that. And if they are well compensated to begin with that's at a high tax bracket. And for some of these people, the remaining amount just isn't worth it.

Nah, not for some. I've never made a six figure salary. I have quit jobs in the past that would be six-figure jobs in today's market. They demand too much time and become the central focus of your life and identity. That's not for me.

Maybe so. But if you're not getting wildly underpaid those opportunities are few and far between.

My take: at least in the places where I've been, IT tech in the last ~20 years was dominated by enthusiastic youngsters like me. CS and CS-related fields were the default go-to job in my circles around the '90ies, creating a large surplus. If you wanted a job in the beginning of your career, you had to accept either a crappy job or a low-paying one.

I've never seen in the eurozone the US-style crazy-high 100k+ salaries. In general, here an IT engineer hired fulltime fetches a rate which is comparable to many other regular jobs, and generally lower than other engineering positions. However the churn and stress is much, much higher in my career experience. We joke about JS, but almost everything around the IT has now super-fast refresh cycles which require never-ending honing of your skills just for the sake of it.

That initial candidate surplus is now starting to age and drain. These CS candidates have now a decades-old experience in the current tech stack which is worth gold, but are also tired of the churn. You can still get them, but be prepared to pay them a lot more. Many companies which were founded on entry-level salaries will now see their workforce explode in cost. This is going to be huge with the current inflation in the next 2-5 years, where your average company raise won't cut anymore and you're forced to jump ship to maintain your purchasing power.

The young talent is still there of course, but it's often more specialized than what I remember a few decades ago due to the growth of the field. This means that finding a good fit reduces your pool significantly, unless you accept your candidate will be learning for a long time.

> ...and I imagine I'd be singing a slightly different song if I had kids,

Depending on the person, that may be a good motivator for them to not seek more money, but to seek more time instead. I'm certainly there. I've turned down more money when the position would mean that I was responsible for an awful lot more and it would take time away from my kids. When they're older and possibly out of the house, that may change, but for now? I'd rather have the time than the money because, like you, I have "enough." It's just not a limiting factor at this point in what I care to do, but time is.

> "There comes a point where the money just isn't a motivating factor anymore, and companies are struggling to figure out how to work in that environment. This bit from the author hits the nail on the head: >Is an extra $10k per year worth learning a new org, a new skillset, a new set of expectations, a new set of coworkers, and a new boss?"

> For many engineers, the answer is: “No.”

> Yes I could quit and get a ~20k raise by shopping my resume around, but I don't need the money. I have enough for a down payment on a house, I meet my expenses for the month with 1/2 of one paycheck, I can buy a new car on a credit card if I wanted to.

This entire thread is mind-blowingly backwards though it totally explains why we the industry is in this position. It starts with people saying that "they don't need more money" because they can borrow or they can $20k more by shopping around their resume if they need to, followed by people waxing about how $50k-$80k is a decent salary, followed by people saying "no one gets paid $250k out of college"

It is very simple: $20k extra over a period of 52 weeks is extra $384 per week, which is less than extra $10 an hour.

Here's why you cannot hire engineers: you are not paying them enough money.

Engineer: $55k is good if i have <blah blah blah>

Someone who wants to hire him and has no toys: $80k

Engineer: I guess but only if I get to work only really cool projects

Someone who wants to hire him and has shitty projects: $100k

Engineer: And I want to have super smart people working with me

Someone who wants to hire him and does not have smart people as he wants to build a team around this kind of engineer: $150k

Engineer: Yeah, i guess it will work.

Someone who wants to hire him and does not want him to shop around: $170k

Engineer: hell yes! I'm going to unshitty these projects and make people around me smart!

Oh, you don't want to pay $170k/year for an engineer because you think those plebeians should be working for $55k? Well, that's your problem.

P.S. Can't hire at $170k/year? Offer $220/k.

P.P.S. $10k/year is not a raise.

Your thinking is so resonating with mine too... Also I'd like to add...

> 3. Some degree of repeatability in work environment.

Instead of the above point, I am looking for...

A place where I make greater impact in a small company working along side ethical people who are not trying to exploit their customers/consumers, rather than a FAAMG where you're replaceable within a few days and follow no ethics just revenue in mind...

A place where managers are accommodating of suggestions just because I write code doesn't mean my ideas about the product/solution aren't worth listening to...

A place where you admire or atleast respect the CEO and the company's business tactics instead of my ex-company whose past CEO is now an "astronaut" just to play a marketing gimmick I guess... :p

Please connect with me if you consider your startup/company is one such place... ;)

> > Is an extra $10k per year worth learning a new org, a new skillset, a new set of expectations, a new set of coworkers, and a new boss?

> For many engineers, the answer is: “No.” Yes I could quit and get a ~20k raise by shopping my resume around, but I don't need the money.

Would you feel the same if you were enticed to switch jobs with offers of 1.5x, 2x or more than what you're currently making?

I think plenty of people would consider leaving their current employer, even with the headaches that comes with doing so, to make 50% to 100%+ over their current compensation package. I know I would.

I agree that engineers might not jump ship for a $10k increase in income, and it seems to me that the market rate for engineers based on current demand isn't captured by offers of $10k to $20k above current salaries. That would suggest that if employers are truly that desperate for engineers, like they say they are, then they'd need to offer more money to outbid their competitors' offers.

Truthfully, I have a feeling that many employers' choices of not offering larger compensation packages to potential employees don't stem not a rational economic choice, but from a feeling that such offers are "too much" for engineers. Some companies would rather not hire, and make less money, than hire new employees at their market rates and profit from their work.

Being able to work alongside the people you're solving the problem for is a really great intrinsic motivator. You can be abstracted away quite a bit as an engineer, which makes it so most of your motivations have to come from within and it ends up being quite a narcissitic evaluation of your role. You're not always going to love the problems you're solving, but when you know it's part of a bigger picture you believe in I think that's a huge motivator.

I think most people of working age now have been part of the individualism movement, which leaves us pretty ill-prepared to deal with the feelings of discontent when we finally succeed at "getting ours" and realize it wasn't all that fulfilling. Solving problems that matter to the community you live in, or the greater society you're part of, has so much more intrinsic reward.

I've come to this realisation as well. there is a tipping point where the impact we have starts to become a critical factor. when i started in the industry I'm in, I apparently had absolutely no problem being entirely detached from the people I impact. Even not knowing what exactly my value to society was didn't scratch my curiosity. 8y later, I'm desperate for any initiative no matter how small that I get to know who it's helping.

It is now internalised, a strong demotivation happens each time something abstract comes my way, no matter how technically exciting the task is. Something else wroth mentioning, the whole remote work somewhat becomes also a factor against content to be part of a labor community. It's not an issue the first few years, but total remote work for over 5 years has started to make me value proximity to business circles. proximity with my colleagues and proximity with who use whatever we make. there is a sort of guilt that builds up when benefiting from the hard work of the local community to provide physical services (coffee shops, organic food markets, drivers, etc) and have our time spent online contributing to solutions with colleagues and paying users residing thousands of miles away, who only appear to exist as email addresses and occasional faces/voices spit out by a laptop.

It's interesting that I came to a very different answer than "many engineers" you quote.

If the money is the same, I'll happily take learning a new skillset, a new org, a new set of expectations. When I had not accumulated enough money early in my career, I consciously had to think about stable income. Now that I have accumulated non-trivial sum of money, I'd happily and readily take new and exciting challenges - i.e. I can take more risks as I can afford to, and I'm willing to take more risks for non-monetary reasons. And if the money is better, even better! Thus, in fact, that's exactly what I did in 2021 - I switched my job.

I was quite satisfied with the position I was in at the last two companies I left.

All the things you mention matter to me, but I added 50% to my salary on my first jump, then another 110% on my second. All in just over a year.

Money is still my primary driver. It will be until I am fully financially independent. Not just able to live on a FIRE budget of $30k a year, but able to chase my own fairly expensive interests.

You're right, I'm not going to leave for another $10k, but another $100k, sure, and right now that's not that difficult to achieve.

How many years of experience do you have?

At least one it seems.

About four.

This is classic HN bubble. I would estimate that most software engineers around the world never come into this luxury situation where you can say that money just isn't motivating you anymore when considering new job opportunities.

In less developed countries $10k is >= 40% annual salary for most developers with almost any skillset

Exactly. And many of us have a hard time getting a single opportunity and feel lucky when we get a job.

>Is an extra $10k per year worth learning a new org, a new skillset, a new set of expectations, a new set of coworkers, and a new boss?

Not to mention how much effort has to be put into the interview process, my time is worth money, I'm not giving away minimum 6 hours of it for free if I don't need to.

For reasonably dynamic careers and standard way of life (like mine), I feel that there are plateaux in "quality of life".

When you are out of school a change of 1000€ per year means nicer vacation. Go for it.

The same 1000€ is something I would not even consider. I am at a plateau where it requires significantly more money to change your way of life, and the 1000€ would not be perceptible.

Maybe that of you add the "retire early" part it may make sense to optimize your income, but it is too late for me anyway.

The interesting bit with covid is there are a lot fewer opportunities to spend that money, or opportunities that are less enjoyable.

For say travel or big events or the like. Still, there are many things that are equally or more enjoyable in this new post covid Era, like a jet ski, boat or RV. Depends on what you like doing I suppose.

> There comes a point where the money just isn't a motivating factor anymore,

True. But... When I hear "Best year ever!" But then hear, "Sorry, we can't give more than 3% raises". Someone is getting theirs. I want mine, too! I helped make this the best year ever, in very substantial ways.

> >Is an extra $10k per year worth learning a new org, a new skillset, a new set of expectations, a new set of coworkers, and a new boss? > > For many engineers, the answer is: “No.”

Not too long ago, I was at a Very Large Tech Firm. Base pay was great, and the RSUs were really great. I ended up leaving for a smaller company where IT is considered a cost center. The tech stack isn't all that exciting, total comp is a significant step down, and the only way to stay here and get a substantial raise is to get promoted... but I get along well with the people there, and I don't have to worry about off-hours emergencies. The only companies that might be willing to offer enough for me to take the jump away from that, would likely be a well-capitalized tech firm, of which few have a physical presence here.

So this. I guess I have had around 17 bosses (direct and dotted line) in around 26 years of I.T., and yeah, there is a point where you hit a kind of pay "glass ceiling" in your region if you are a decent but non-stellar engineer (70-95%ile) such that an extra 10-20k teaser is just not worth leaving a cool/familiar boss/situation for an unfamiliar one.

I'd move jobs if someone I knew and liked through my network wanted to hire me for the right job for a nice increase, but the idea of taking a +20k job with some random boss I have never seen under pressure or on a bad day--no way.

Taking a job when you are older is like buying a house without an inspection--you better really know and like the bones. Who you work for is the #1 factor for me. Nothing worse than hitting 50 and having some hateful blowhard breathing down your neck. Stress just sucks in your 20s and 30s, it can kill in your 40s and 50s.

Wishful thinking at best, anchoring the narrative at worst. It is always about compensation (which money is one big part of). Sure, there is some overhead to changing jobs, but if it is all covered people will switch. It is pretty easy to see if one looks in the other direction. Would people who supposedly passionate about their jobs do it for free? If yes, they are either lying or it is not strictly a job. It is always a function of compensation with a capital C, even if it is expected to not be frank about it.

If you're lucky... "There comes a point where the money just isn't a motivating factor anymore"

Fixed it for you

I have kids, well 1 kid, and it still applies if not more so. Is making a bit more worth the stress of changing all of my childcare arrangements? My current job I can clearly state that I have school pickup/dropoff at this time so no meetings. A prospective employer could promise the same flexibility and after the initial 6 month grind I would be comfortable demanding it, but starting a employer/employee relationship that way is much easier said than done.

A 500-3000% increase in salary is different from a 5% increase, agreed.

I would be genuinely amazed if you couldn't fill your positions once you started offering upwards of $1.5m yearly.

> Is an extra $10k per year worth..

Extra X a year for a couple of year? No.

Extra X a year for the rest of your working life? Yes.

Consider that some employers anchor salaries to previous salaries ala "we won't pay you more than Y more than your previous salary" - so any raise represents an increase in all future offers.

So despite the downsides, working for a couple of years under a new salary has essentially increased your worth in the eyes of the market.

Plus, as I found out, a $20k pay raise can equate to ~$8k extra in your pocket per year as the upper band tax rate is brutal here.

I understand yours and authors view about money, but for some people 10k per year raise is a really good amount. I was recently on that boat, jumped companies for a close to 10k/year raise because that was 1/3 of what I was making in my previous company. Development jobs aren't at all paid in the same scale in the US vs rest of the world (I'm in Europe).

> There comes a point where the money just isn't a motivating factor anymore, and companies are struggling to figure out how to work in that environment. This bit from the author hits the nail on the head:

I dunno... maybe for hotshot FAANG jobs?

I mean, I love where I work now, but if some company were to offer me 250k to jump ship, I'd be MIGHTY tempted!

That is how I feel as well. Sure I could increase my salary if I switched jobs and industry (like finance), but do I want to? The recruiter kept harassing me because he could not understand why I would not want to earn 30k more a year. Like you, I also do not have kids, so that makes things much simpler.

If money isn't motivating people, you're not using enough. $10k is not worth learning a new skill, but $100k might be. "Learn Rust and pay for your kids' college in three quarters" sounds more appealing than "Learn Rust and maybe get a nicer trim level on your car"

Weird world you live in! I see endless employers post job postings with specific reqs, and presume engineers cannot learn new languages or skills.

Oh no! You don't code in lang $x, but know 12 other languages? Clearly, you're not a fit for this job!

I onboarded the concept of 'risk to reward ratio'. If you're a gambling man, you might call this '+EV moves only'. +10/20k is nice (if you need it), but the risk is great in a new team, new environment etc.

Money is always a hygiene factor, not a motivating factor. Classic Herzberg.

Money just needs to be enough. After that you have enrich the job sufficient to hook people in.

Perhaps the first thing a business needs to do before it starts hiring is learn how to hire.

> Money just needs to be enough.

That's a moving target though, if your market value changed and you could now easily get +50%, your current comp won't be enough anymore.

To add to this. I am already in the 49% tax bracket. So a 10k raise would not be worth learning a new organization and the risk of getting a worse boss.

10k raise is not worth adding extra anxiety - unless your current job pays so little it will make a difference. Engineers are severly underpaid that's why money seem irrelevant, because these sums are too small to be.

Also got the whole golden handcuffs thing. Unless a company is going to offer me a $800k signing bonus nothing is worth me change roles for another year and a half.

> I imagine I'd be singing a slightly different song if I had kids

I don't know... as soon as you do the stability of an existing job seems more compelling.

Agree with this idea. Every job promises that it will be the best. But after a few new job experiences, i know how bad it can get. Yeah i could get another 20-50k but the chance its going to be a nightmare again isn't worth the risk I think. Some managers, idk what they're thinking.

Yup this just happened to me for a measly $9k that I could have made working paid overtime in my last gig. It was my time to leave and the right call for other reasons, but I would not have picked this again if things were going well.

Now I’m in a very adversarial relationship with my manager who seems to think $100k is insane compensation, he’s owed the world, and my senior status means I should just know internal processes and make me immune to debugging headaches.

In the past when people struggled with tooling/debugging that was just the way the cookie crumbled. There was sympathy and understanding. Now I work with a jackass that just assumes someone is screwing up, and lashes out at people when things aren’t going well.

>There comes a point where the money just isn't a motivating factor anymore

clearly you've never been poor.

the implication is that most people have a limit to how much money they can reasonably spend before they start seeking things other than more money in life.

even a poor person can tell you that an extra $10M in their pocket will be no more life-changing than an extra $1M.

I feel like there's a big difference between $10M and $1M. At $10M you're free to no longer work because of high returns from that money, you can effectively never worry about money again and live a comfortable life. At $1M that isn't true, you still need to work full time to maintain quality of life. $10M is obviously more life changing than $1M in terms of opportunities you can safely pursue.

i think it's a sliding scale.

if you were previously living on streets and frequently going hungry, then you can likely sustain yourself very well still without working. 1M translates to 27 years at $3k/month expenses. if you chose to supplement that with work, you can easily double that runway.

obviously it's not the same as $10M, which would allow you and your children to never work again, but jump between that and no food/no shelter is not as significant. for those who already have financial stability, $1M only serves as a safety net or retirement fund and cannot act as an early retirement plan without significant cutbacks, so the jump from 1->10 is significant. in the same way that 10M->100M extra income for Bezos is not gonna change much.

You must live in the sticks or something. I make well over 6 figures and can’t afford a house.

"well over 6 figures". Does this mean "well over $100k" or "well over 999k"?

Usually it means the former.

Do you seriously think people making $1M/yr browse this website

Yes, many such people, including myself, billionaires too. Brian Armstrong, founder of Coinbase [0], Austen Allred [1], Patrick McKenzie is probably at the millionaire level, working at Stripe; there are a lot of entrepreneurs and business people here, this is a site run by a VC of course, not just technologists.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/threads?id=barmstrong

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/threads?id=austenallred

There was a guy yesterday that said he's doing four remote swe jobs right now at the same time. Takes roles that he's comfortable with and capable at, gets stuff done and nobody complains. Sounds like he's +1 million. Sort of like a 4x Tim Ferris program.

Something I've learned from Reddit is that people do actually LARP about things like income, even when they're posting anonymously on these kind of forums. This is likely one of those instances. And i don't believe anybody earning 1m+ would take Tim Ferris seriously.

Link if you have it? I’m curious. I’m not surprised people are trying it. While I can definitely see it being possible to get the work done for a while, I can’t imagine how they could avoid meeting conflicts across 4 jobs.

As said on that thread - in many countries, if you're working 4 jobs it's likely fraud or breach of contract, so "hopefully" this person is contracting instead.

Still, it's not "unusual" to outsource your job to somewhere cheaper: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21043693

This is unbelievable

Wouldn't this be hugely problematic in terms of NDA's?

yes..... Why would you think they don't? Quite a few tech billionaires comment from time to time; though mostly when it's there company stuff breaking.

A great many L7+ engineers definitely do. Ditto for career managers who don't implement day to day but do their best to keep up.

And I was feeling guilty today for browsing here in working hours hehe.

Yes - still stay connected and inspired.

Easily at least a hundred of them...

Sure you can. You just can't afford a house in 94027.

Maybe not today, if you haven't saved, but if you have no major debt now, there is noplace in the country where six figures won't allow you to buy a house once you have a downpayment. Mortgages are cheaper than rent, and you're presumably living somewhere right now.

What is your definition of house? Does a studio condo count? And how far of a commute are you talking about?

Let's take Mountain View. Looking at "houses" and "townhouses" on Zillow, the cheapest one is this one[1] for $1,295,000. Zillow says the estimated monthly cost is $6,176. I don't think that's possible on a $100k salary once you factor in taxes. Zillow also says the rent "Zestimate" is $3,949/mo, so Zillow thinks it would be cheaper to rent than to buy. One hypothetical reason that renting could be cheaper than buying is that landlords buy for the expected price growth rather than just for the rental income.

> you're presumably living somewhere right now.

Maybe with roommate(s). If you buy 50% or 33% or 25% of a house with your roommate(s), that's not really $100k buying a house, that's $200k or $300k or $400k buying a house.

[1] https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/1993-Plymouth-St-APT-8-Mo...

I mean that’s kind of a tautological statement, if you have a huge down payment of course you can buy a house?

My point is that a six figure income makes it possible anywhere. Especially a "well over six" income. Of course you have to save, but it's ridiculous to say it's unaffordable.

What do you consider the sticks?

You nailed it for me. Once I met a certain pay level I just started leveraging for lifestyle. The way to get me to jump to your org is less work for the same pay.

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